By Spc. Jamie Vernon, 2nd BCT PAO, 1st Armd. Div., MND-BMay 8, 2009
BAGHDAD - The 2nd 'Iron' Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, Multi-National Division-Baghdad, has deployed to Iraq on three occasions since March 2003 for a total of 42 months; more than any other Army unit during the same time frame. That fact has not hindered the brigade from meeting its retention goals
"The mission was to reenlist 758 Soldiers but we're actually at 120-125 percent right now. We reenlisted 928 Soldiers so far with another 70 ready to reenlist," said Sgt. 1st. Class Garold Largent, of Saint Joseph, Mo., the brigade's senior career counselor.
The unit boasts above average retention rates for this time period, as put out for every brigade combat team Army wide. According to the Army retention goals, units should be at 58 percent while the Iron Brigade is at 122 percent, an extraordinary 64 percent above the requirement.
"It's my fourth deployment and it's not that common," said Largent. "It's usually at 100, 110 Soldiers (the amount who reenlist). There is sometimes an influx at the end of rotation, especially for a lot of first-term Soldiers: they made a deployment, it's not that bad, and they reenlist," said Largent.
Soldiers from all different military occupational specialties decided to extend their time in the Army while they were deployed to Iraq. The Army paid $6.5 million in bonuses to Iron Brigade Soldiers who reenlisted while deployed to Iraq. The bonuses were tax free; another incentive for Soldiers to reenlist.
Many Soldiers reenlisted towards the end of deployment because they were about to finish their assignment, and through reenlisting can choose to stay in Germany or choose another duty station of their choice.
"I was really bent on getting out, but during the deployment I reenlisted back in September to stay in the Army for another five years," said Sgt. Jamal Davis, of Tuskegee, Ala., who is currently on his third deployment. "After this deployment I'll go back to Germany and then (change duty stations) to Fort Sill, I reenlisted for a (non-deployable) position, so I would like to get an instructor slot down there, and then after that it'll be wherever the Army takes me."
Davis also felt that this reenlistment option will allow him to enjoy the benefits the Army offers Soldiers along with the ability to spend more time with his family.
"It's between the assignment and the economy, being what it is right now, the Army is giving me all these free benefits, medical and what not," said Davis. "For me personally, it comes into play, but another thing- I guess you could say is spending time with my kids because I have two kids. Spending time with them will be a big change because the only thing that they know right now is that daddy goes to work and daddy deploys."
Although there are many reasons Soldiers reenlist, there are different trends that are consistently present in Soldiers who do.
"For many Soldiers it was just being part of the Army team, camaraderie, esprit d' corps, basically just team," said Largent.
Soldiers also reenlisted for a chance to switch to a different military occupational specialty, to change from their current duty to something they would enjoy more.
"I was infantry in the Marine Corps, and I was shot while I was in Fallujah and that's why I was discharged," said Spc. Daniel Barbours, of Bullard, Texas, a member of 1st Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment. "So I came in the Army as a 94A, (land combat electrician) and I was spending a lot of time doing guard tower duty, and not going out much. Then I started going on patrols with the tankers and I was like, 'start sending me out on patrols'. So I reenlisted and re-classed as 11B (infantryman), and received a $5,000 bonus."
Although it is up to each individual Soldier to make the decision to reenlist, the command climate and their attitude towards their Soldiers plays a large part in each Soldier's decision to reenlist.
"The reflection of retention is a reflection on the command. When Soldiers don't reenlist it's a command influence so it's more based off of command guidance," said Largent.
The Iron Brigade is one of many other brigade combat teams in the Army that have had excellent retention rates this year, leading to an overall excellent year for retention throughout the Army.
"The first quarter of fiscal year 2009 was the most successful in Army history and we met 249 percent of our goals," said Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth Preston during a visit to MND-B headquarters in Iraq earlier this year.