For the second year in a row, Sgt. 1st Class Robert Leitelt earned selection as the career counselor of the year for the 20th CBRNE Command.

He received his awards at a Nov. 16 ceremony at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, and will represent the command at the U.S. Army Forces Command's CCoY competition at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Leitelt, from the 83rd CBRN Battalion at Fort Stewart, Georgia, competed against Staff Sgts. Robert Marbury, from Martinsville, Virginia, and Mario Rodriguez, from Eagle Pass, Texas. Marbury serves with the 79th Ordnance Bn. (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) at Fort Hood, Texas, while Rodriguez is with the 22nd Chemical Bn. at Fort Bliss, Texas.

The two-day competition included completing the Army Physical Fitness Test, answering questions on a written exam, writing an essay, and answering detailed questions from a panel of senior sergeants major. The board interviews included the additional stress of a close inspection of their Army Service Uniform and providing answers on Army retention and reenlistment policies from memory without the usual resources available in an office.

Similar to a job interview, the board challenged the counselors on a variety of topics including the reenlistment process, how they would handle questions on retraining, the new blended retirement system, Army-level priorities, and current events, among others.

The command sergeants major challenged each counselor to recite portions of the career counselor creed. See the creed at http://armyreenlistment.com/CCOY/StudyGuide_20061011.pdf

I am honored to serve as the honest broker for the soldier and the commander's eyes and ears in the unit. I exist to keep the Army's forces strong through the retention of America's sons and daughters, our soldiers.

All three career counselors noted that they often invested after-duty hours working to resolve issues for individual Soldiers. "There is a lot of inaccurate and outdated information floating around a barracks," Rodriguez pointed out. "I will work hard for a Soldier in order to give them the right information."

Marbury recalled that "he helped a Soldier put in for a desired assignment to Fort Bragg - it eventually came through and he reached out to me and said thanks - that does not happen often."

There are several incentives for re-enlistment to include money bonuses and choice of duty station that can impact both the Soldier and their family.

There are also times when a Soldier wants to reclassify to a different military occupational specialty but does not qualify. "If it doesn't look good, we map out a way to improve their chances, perhaps with more training," said Rodriquez.

"Sometimes, a Soldier wants to get out," said Marbury. "While I show them the advantages of remaining, I'll try to find out their real reasons for leaving the Army and try to 'reel them back in' by talking about various incentives that are available."

Leitel, in his counseling and conversations, said that "Sometimes, Soldiers make life decisions based on one situation rather than looking at the long term. I have to be a subject matter expert on any personnel topic."

The awards ceremony was led by Sgt. Maj. Lisa Cowboy, the 20th CBRNE Command Career Counselor, who emphasized the professional excellence needed in career counselors.

"Army career counselors are seasoned Soldiers who are trained to advise commanders and leaders on all aspects of the Army Retention Program," explained Cowboy. "They also advise Soldiers on their career opportunities in the Army and Reserve component. Not only are they in charge of Soldier re-enlistments, but they also help Soldiers explore their opportunities for military schools, assignments to Army units around the world, and special duty assignments."

Cowboy pointed out that retention programs are dynamic in order to keep pace with current policy changes. "This ensures that the needs of Soldiers and Families are met without impacting Army manning requirements," she said.

Awards were also given for retention excellence to the career counselors for the 52nd Ordnance Group (EOD), the 71st Ordnance group (EOD), and the 48th Chemical Brigade. The 20th CBRNE Command's Headquarters and Headquarters Company earned a certificate of achievement for their retention success as well.

Rodriguez summarized the importance of what he, and his fellow career counselors, do for the Army: "[We are] a force multiplier for the Army to encourage Soldiers to stay in."