FORT SILL, Oklahoma (Jan. 31, 2020) -- Staff Sgt. Robert Lawniczak, 30th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, Lawniczak has won the Training and Doctrine-level Command Career Counselor of the Year for the past three years. And, he just missed winning the Fiscal Year 2020 Department of the Army Career Counselor of the Year title by three points. Still, said he feels great about his efforts.

"I did really really well for myself; I'm not upset with my performance," he said.

As a career counselor, Lawniczak advises Soldiers on what Army benefits are available to them whether they plan to re-enlist, or leave the service. He counsels about 400 Soldiers at the brigade.

The DA-level competition consisted of a written test, physical fitness test, and a board appearance, he said. He went up against several other career counselors from Army major commands.

"It really boils down to how well you can study, and understand the material," Lawniczak said. Much of the testing involved knowing how to process actions as a career counselor.

For the TRADOC competition, competitors were evaluated on the Army Physical Fitness Test, and the new Army Combat Fitness Test back to back , he said. "The was pretty challenging, but it was fun, and I did very well."

All career counselors ranging from staff sergeant to non-promotable sergeant first class can volunteer to compete in the Career Counselor of the Year Competition beginning at their unit level, Lawniczak said.

"Since I've been competing, I've always been one of the lowest ranking, with the shortest time in this field," he said, "so I've been competing against some people who have been doing this for quite
some time and who have a lot of experience."

Lawniczak began his TRADOC winning streak back in 2018, when he was a career counselor for the Fort Sill Medical Command. He said his supervisor career counselor Master Sgt. Christie Holloway
was a tremendous influence on him.

"She trained me on the things that I need to compete, she gave me study materials and practice exams," he said.

She also put him up to memorizing the Career Counselor Creed and to recite it at the local Holiday Inn to get over his nervousness of speaking in front of people.

Winning the TRADOC competition allowed Lawniczak to transfer from the Medical Command to Fort
Sill's post retention program.

"That was a much higher level career counselor position, so I got a lot of exposure to more information, and what kind of Soldiers we deal with," he said. "I was actually covering for three brigades at the time."

Lawniczak's current supervisor Master Sgt. Robert Lockhart, Fort Sill Installation Command career counselor, described him as a selfless leader.

"He's a counselor that I trust for a brigade of that size," Lockhart said. "As a staff sergeant … he can devote more time with individuals to ensure the brigade meets its end strength. It's tougher, that's why we put him there."

What's the best part of the job for Lawniczak?

"We get to meet so many people," he said. "You need people, you need bridges to get you to the next step, we all need each other and when we understand that, it makes it very enjoyable."

The most challenging part of the job is the voluminous amount of information career counselors have to know (which is constantly changing), and they have to brief senior leadership on the Army retention program, Lawniczak said.

"It's a lot of pressure to make sure that we are managing their program properly." Lawniczak will be transferring to Germany in June, so he hasn't decided if he will compete in the Career Counselor of the Year next year at his new unit.

He said his long term goal is to reach the pinnacle -- to become the Army Senior Career Counselor, the sergeant major who creates career counselor policies.