By YVONNE JOHNSON, APG NewsJune 11, 2009
During this Year of the NCO, noncommissioned officers are being praised for their care of America's Soldiers.
There may be none more focused on the well-being of those within his command than Master Sgt. Thomas A. Bogetti, career counselor for the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command.
Bogetti is not only charged with managing the careers of RDECOM Soldiers who are spread out around the globe, but also of Soldiers within the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command, which is relocating to APG under base realignment and closure, and because of a shortage of career counselors within the major subordinate commands, he also is the servicing counselor for the U.S. Security Assistance Command based in Fort Belvoir, Va.
Bogetti said that typically, career counseling often is confused with retention.
"As a command career counselor, I'm tasked with counseling Soldiers on their career needs," he said. "It may be retention focused but if they are looking to leave the military, I have to focus on their needs and plans to aid them in a successful transition whether they are leaving for the Reserves or National Guard or strictly as a civilian."
He said that along with sustainment counseling, which focuses on projected opportunities, when Soldiers decide to stay in, he pushes the Army Career and Alumni Program, and other job assistance programs for those deciding to leave.
"I center on compensation management," he said. "My approach is Soldier and Family based, and my philosophy is to focus on Soldiers as human beings and on their needs, wants and desires, not as numbers for making mission.
"Second, I ask the Soldier 'What are you doing to personally and professionally improve yourself''"
Sustainment counseling includes informing Soldiers about military schools and correspondence courses that can gain them college credits in civilian schools. He also assists Soldiers desiring to change their military occupational specialty or transition from enlisted to officer or warrant officer.
"The career counselor helps and facilitates those goals even if it means just pointing them in the right direction," Bogetti said. "We do a lot more than retention. We focus on getting Soldiers to think about where they want to be two to five years from now. Too many go day to day and year to year without thinking about [their future] until a situation forces them to make the tough decisions."
Like Retention NCOs, career counselors assist commanders in achieving retention goals as directed by Congress and the Department of the Army, Bogetti added.
"The options, bonuses and benefits are many, and a prime focus is to make sure Soldiers are aware of the opportunities and advantages to continuing their careers," he said.
Along with leading the APG retention mission, Bogetti's job includes visiting installations under the RDECOM and CECOM umbrellas to train or advise leaders, Soldiers and anyone else in the "retention chain" on updates and regulation changes to keep them prepared for inspections which are conducted quarterly.
"RDECOM is unique in that it's spread out all over," Bogetti said. "I regularly go on staff assistant visits to evaluate retention NCOs as well as their leader's retention programs.
This includes advising commanders on Bar to Reenlistment or Chapter proceedings or inspecting reenlistment contracts.
"These contracts are a binding authority," Bogetti said. "When you are asking for four or five more years of a person's life, you're asking for them to put a lot more than their signature on the line. We have to be sure they are sound."
Bogetti, who is more often than not on the road, regularly travels to RDECOM's U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Command in Natick, Mass., to Fort Monmouth, N.J., Fort Belvoir, Va., Iraq, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia seeing to the needs of RDECOM, CECOM and SAC Soldiers, as well as Soldiers in RDECOM's Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center.
A native of Pennsylvania, Bogetti entered the Army in 1990 and attended Basic and Advanced Individual Training at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., where he was awarded the military occupational specialty of 51R, Interior Electrician.
Subsequent training resulted in his obtaining the additional MOS's of 91Q, Pharmacy Technician and 79S, Career Counselor.
He holds a bachelor's degree in social sciences from Upper Iowa University and dual master's degrees in human resources development and procurement and acquisitions management and a master's of business administration from Webster University.
Having joined the Army 30 days after graduating from high school, Bogetti obtained all of his degrees while on active duty. With a grandfather who served during World War II and a father who served in the National Guard during Vietnam, Bogetti said he's certain a career in the Army was meant to be.
"In the back of my mind, the Army was something I always wanted to do," he said. "I thought I wanted to be a lawyer but think I would have dropped out. The Army gave me the discipline I needed. After my first two years, I settled down and decided I needed to do more."
He said he believes his strong sense of responsibility for his Soldiers comes from the "moral grounding" his father instilled in him.
"He added a twist to the Golden Rule," he said. "Doing unto others as you would have them do unto you wasn't enough. He said you have to think about cultures and backgrounds. They might not want to be treated the way you would want to be treated. So his rule was 'treat others as they would like to be treated.
"That's especially important in my job," he added. "I have to establish that rapport and empathy. If I can't establish that, I'm worthless."
Bogetti is approaching retirement eligibility in July. He said that his only regret is that too many people still do not recognize the sacrifices of American Soldiers.
"Every Soldier is worthy of praise, whether they're a good, solid Soldier or substandard, they're still serving this country," Bogetti said. "A lot of civilians have no idea what that means. They have their freedom because of what we do. That's why I work so hard for them. I owe it to every Soldier to give them the max."
Regarding the Year of the NCO, Bogetti said, "It's about time," and offered his advice for those new to the NCO Corps.
"I would tell young Soldiers that being an NCO takes true commitment. Discipline and develop yourself. You need to assess your environment, keep the Army Values in balance, and be multi-faceted and able to manage at different levels," he said.
"The Army Values and NCO Creed sound good but if you don't practice them then they're just words," he added.
He said he is proud of an innovation that potentially will help Army career counselors as well as Soldiers grow in their field. Bogetti is the initiator of the Web site www.reenlistingheroes.com, the only official retention Web site endorsed by the Army G1.
He said the site "goes beyond unit retention and focuses on decision making, training and compensation.
"The focus is on displaced Soldiers sitting in Baghdad, for example, with Internet access looking for career development information," he said. "Career counselors, retention NCOs and leaders can utilize the site's learning tools."
He said he suggested the site initially for RDECOM through the APG Army Suggestion Program. The site became operational October 2008. Bogetti also manages digital retention regulations and transposes regulations onto a digital Web site for the Pentagon.
Bogetti's retirement plans include relocating with his wife Novi to the Middle East - in the United Arab Emirate and obtaining a faculty position with the American University of Dubai. He said he converted to Muslim to embrace Islam six years ago and that being close to Saudi Arabia is important to him and his wife.
"I've done my career, everything from here on is going to be focused on my religion, my wife and my Family," he said.
Bogetti's previous assignments include Fort Bragg, N.C.; Fort Belvoir, Va.; Fort Leavenworth, Kan.; Fort Jackson, S.C.; Saudi Arabia; Kuwait and Germany.
His awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal and Army Commendation and Achievement medals as well as the Expert Field Medical and Career Counselor badges.