WASHINGTON (Army News Service, March 20, 2007) - In a Pentagon ceremony this morning Acting Secretary of the Army Pete Geren honored six noncommissioned officers he called "the best of the best."

The Soldiers were recipients of the fiscal 2006 Secretary of the Army Career Counselor and Recruiter of the Year awards, and represented the active Army, the Army National Guard and the Army Reserve. The winners are:

Aca,!Ac Sgt. 1st Class Michael E. Beaupre of U.S. Army, Europe, Active-Army Career Counselor of the Year;
Aca,!Ac Sgt. 1st Class James M. Seeger of the XVIII Airborne Corps, Fort Bragg, N.C., Reserve-Component Career Counselor of the Year;
Aca,!Ac Sgt. Derek J. Vasquez of the Syracuse, N.Y., Recruiting Battalion, Army Recruiter of the Year;
Aca,!Ac Staff Sgt. Terry L. Spangler of the Montgomery, Ala., Recruiting Bn., Army Reserve Recruiter of the Year;
Aca,!Ac Sgt. 1st Class Reuben Avila of the Army Reserve's 63rd Regional Readiness Command in Los Alamitos, Calif., Army Reserve Retention NCO of the Year; and
Aca,!Ac Sgt. 1st Class Ricky J. Weber of the Indiana National Guard's State Area Command, Army National Guard Recruiter/Retention NCO of the Year.

Before an audience of senior Army leaders, families and guests, Geren praised the awardees for their dedication and professionalism. He noted that recruiting and retaining a high-quality, all-volunteer military is "critical to the nation in the unpredictable, complex and dangerous 21st-century security environment," and reminded his listeners of the challenges faced by recruiters and career counselors.

"As everyone can appreciate, recruiting in the current environment is challenging, and that challenge will only increase as we take on the mission to grow the Army to more than 547,000 (Soldiers) over the next seven years," Geren said. "Every year the Army must recruit a number of new Soldiers equal to the size of the entire Marine Corps."

Geren noted that in fiscal 2006 the Army had its best recruiting year in nine years and the National Guard its best in 13 years, and said that such successes are a testament to the hard work of recruiters and career counselors.

"Our achievements (in recruiting and retaining this quality force) would not have been possible without the tremendous efforts of thousands of Soldiers just like the ones we are here to honor today," he said. "Recruiters and career counselors are the Army's ambassadors into every community in America and every unit in the Army, telling the Army story and the value of service to the nation."

The opportunity to share with potential recruits and re-enlistees the Army story and the life-changing opportunities the service offers is, the awardees agreed, one of the best things about the job.

"The best part about being a recruiter is changing peoples' lives. I recruit in my hometown, a mile from where I grew up. The Army trained me, put me through school and helped me become a man, and I'm able to pass on that opportunity to others," said Weber, the Army Guard awardee.

Vasquez, the active-Army Recruiter of the Year, said that recruiters help channel young peoples' desire to focus on more than themselves.

"The people we put into the Army are those who are willing to make sacrifices - they want to give something of themselves to help build a better Army and a better country," Vasquez said. "We show them how to do that."

And showing Soldiers already on duty the ways in which continued service can serve both the nation and the individual's career goals is equally important to the Army, said Seeger, the reserve-component Career Counselor of the Year.

"Trained and experienced Soldiers are an extremely valuable asset to the Army, and helping keep their skills in the force is critical to our worldwide success," he said.

"This award signifies what career counselors and retention NCOs do to keep the Army strong," added Beaupre, the active-Army Career Counselor of the Year. "Helping Soldiers and families understand what the Army has to offer them is good for both them and for the Army."

Summing up what he and his colleagues do, Weber said it "all comes down to possibilities.

"We get to help young people see what they can become, and then help them achieve their dreams," Weber said. "It's a truly awesome feeling."