FORT MEADE, Md. --- With the launch of the new Army Talent Alignment Process, Col. Kendall Clarke, commander of 10th Mountain Division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team, was faced with the challenge of filling critical positions before the market closed Friday.

Through ATAP, officers now had more ownership over their careers and no longer have to wait for Army Human Resources Command to divvy out assignments, Clarke said. Each officer can prioritize their assignment preferences and base their selections on their unique knowledge, skills and behaviors.

His brigade out of Fort Polk, Louisiana, was now competing to fill 51 billets, against the rest of the Army. To make things more difficult, officers often see Fort Polk as an unfavorable assignment location, which often puts the installation low on their list, Clarke said.

Maj. Gen. J.P. McGee, director of the Army Talent Management Task Force, said one of the No. 1 concerns he hears about the Army Talent Alignment Process is how the Army will fill positions in locations that have a reputation for being less desirable than others.

"For whatever reason, the military is extremely geographic when it comes to their assignment preferences," Clarke said. "A lot of officers just see the location and not necessarily an opportunity."

"Historically, assignments in certain locations are easier to fill than others," McGee said, "Interestingly, what we've found is that by allowing leaders to engage in the hiring process, they were able to inform and shape officers' preferencing decisions."

Refusing to stand idly by, Clarke would not allow his location to dictate who filled his ranks. He garnered support from his battalion commanders and stood up a "talent scout-like organization" to search and engage with officers throughout the marketplace, he said. The team put in a lot of hard work and started to find success.

"We have had a lot of medical officers reaching out," said Maj. Mateo Acosta, the brigade S-1. "This was the most competed position. They understand that BCTs are busy, and it is a great opportunity for their professional growth."

Out of the 51 available billets, 43 of the requisitions have had some form of interaction, Acosta said. This interaction is either through expressed interest from the officer, or through the 3rd BCT's review and selection process, which ranked candidates through the Assignment Interactive Module 2.0 marketplace.

From the start, the 3rd BCT team emphasized the full range of opportunities throughout the installation. Within the Army's legacy assignment system, the ability to share and promote a unit and select a candidate never truly existed, Clarke explained.

"We offer direct moves into key billets," Clarke said. "There are also key development broadening opportunities at Fort Polk … between the operations group and the Joint Readiness Training Center."

Soldiers can also find stability for their families at Fort Polk, Clarke added. The installation offers quality housing, schools, daycare centers, recreation areas, and physical fitness centers.

"What does [the Army Talent Alignment Process] do for the Army? For places like Fort Polk, we now have a system in place that can elevate performance," he said.

"It ensures that the right talent, skills and attributes go to the right position at the right moment in time," he added.

As the commander, Clarke said he is happy knowing that his team identified a majority of his billet requisitions, with many officers expressing interest in the 3rd BCT. In the coming months, Clarke will wait for HRC to apply the Army Talent Alignment Algorithm and approve each officer's selection.

The algorithm was designed to match each officer to an available position by prioritizing their list of assignment preferences before a unit's request, officials said. Before a match can occur, both the officer and unit must rank each other within the Army Talent Alignment Process. If an officer does not list any preferences, or the algorithm fails to match them with a unit, the Army will reassign them under the legacy assignment process.

"When the ATAP market closed at midnight on December 6, approximately 6,000 officers matched to their number one job choice," McGee said, "This represents a significant change to how officers receive their next assignment and creates the foundation for a talent management system that empowers officers and units to better employ, develop, and retain the talent the Army needs to dominate in future land combat."