FORT STEWART, Ga. – A Dogface Spartan Soldier, Sgt. 1st Class Yoleysi Garcia, the brigade career counselor for the “Spartan Brigade,” 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, won the XVIII Airborne Corps Retention Excellence and Leadership Award on Oct. 21, 2021, at Fort Story, Virginia. The competition to win the award consisted of multiple stations, including an Army Combat Fitness Test, an essay, an exam, a board appearance and a mystery event that tested critical retention tasks. An Army career counselor spearheads the Army's mission to meet the demands of the Army’s yearly end-strength goal through the never-ending work of retention.
In addition to Garcia winning, Sgt. 1st Class Fernando Reynoso, the battalion career counselor for the 3rd Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 2nd ABCT, 3rd ID, and Sgt. Blake Dumas, the retention noncommissioned officer for the 6th Squadron, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd ABCT, 3rd ID, were also sent to represent the Division at the XVIII Airborne Corps retention competition.
“The continued manning of the Spartan Brigade and our Army is a direct result of the hard work of career counselors and retention NCOs,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Jaime Lopez, senior enlisted advisor of the 2nd ABCT, 3rd ID. “Special congratulations to Sergeant 1st Class Garcia for winning the Corps competition and hats off to Sgt. 1st Class Reynoso and Sgt. Dumas for representing the Brigade and the Division well.”
The competition aimed to challenge the competitors on their Soldiering skills knowledge. For senior NCOs that specialize in functional career fields, this can be a challenge. Garcia was determined to not let that stop her.
“It’s a motivator for me to show others not to stay behind the scenes once they hit a certain rank or position,” said Garcia. “We want Soldiers to compete and do great things, and I think it’s important to lead by example and show that competing and putting ourselves out there is for senior Soldiers as well.”
While it was a competition, it offered the competitors more added benefits. For Reynoso, it was a great chance to meet others with the same passion to help Soldiers.
“It was a great experience to see career counselors from different units trying to achieve the same goal and was a great learning experience,” Reynoso said. “Networking and seeing peers from across the XVIII Airborne Corps compete for a higher-level board lets you see the ones that want to separate themselves from their peers.”
Whether Soldiers reclass or stay in their chosen career field, the goal is to advise based on the individual’s career goals, needs and desires. Dumas, who went to compete for the XVIII Airborne Corps Retention NCO of the Year, said it’s not a role he takes lightly, and the competition was eye opening. But it’s not about the competition at the end of the day.
“It’s really about being able to help Soldiers and point them in the right direction,” said Duma. “It’s helping to get them signed up for schools or just figure out what options are available to them.”
Though the competition was challenging for all three Soldiers, it was a primarily a learning experience. Garcia reflected on the impact of being a career counselor has on a Soldier and their Family.
“It’s very rewarding because you get to know Soldiers and their Families,” emphasized Garcia. “We create generational trends by helping them stay active duty or decide to reenlist. Service becomes a tradition in their Families for generations. It’s not just about one Soldier, but their whole Family.”
Garcia, a native of Miami, Florida, served as a combat medic with the 615th Aviation Support Battalion, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, at Fort Hood, Texas, prior to becoming a career counselor. While Garcia enjoyed her work as a medic, she knew she wanted to help Soldiers in a different way.
“I always felt Soldiers missed out on career opportunities due to lack of information,” she explained. “I wanted to be part of a team ensuring Soldiers know their options. I can now positively affect a larger population of Soldiers.”
After winning the competitive award, Garcia says it’s about more than just her.
“This is not a me accomplishment; this is a unit award,” she added. “I will be the face to represent the Spartan Brigade, 3rd ID and the XVIII Airborne Corps at the next level. I’m excited to represent my unit and career counselor team."
Garcia plans to attend the 2021 U.S. Army Forces Command Retention Competition in December.