LOGAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan -- The 7th Engineer Battalion held a re-enlistment ceremony March 5 for 14 of its members at Forward Operating Base Shank, while another nine engineers re-enlisted at outlying FOBs the same week.

Due to the impending force reductions scheduled to take place in the Army, it has become more difficult for Soldiers to re-enlist. Several years ago, the option to re-enlist was based almost completely on the decision of the Soldier. At that time, the goal of the Army's retention plan was to keep as many Soldiers as possible.

As of March 1, however, this process has changed. Re-enlistment strategies are now aimed at keeping a smaller percentage comprised of the best qualified Soldiers in the Army. Soldiers who re-enlisted on March 5 were given the opportunity to do so because their leaders believe that they have what it takes to be the Army's next generation of leaders.

During the ceremony, Lt. Col. Mark Quander, 7th Engineer Battalion commander, administered the oath of enlistment. Before administering the oath, Quander spoke about the exclusiveness of the military during a time of war and explained the significance of re-enlistment under the Army's new retention system.

"The changes in re-enlistment have been for the greater good of the Army," Staff Sgt. Tiffany Kwie-cinsky said after the ceremony. "The criteria you have to meet to even be considered eligible to re-enlist already set you apart from your peers."

Kwiecinsky went on to explain that because the new system is so selective, it ensures that those Soldiers, noncommissioned officers and officers who are able to re-enlist will maintain the traditions and high standards that make the U.S. Army great.

For many of these Soldiers, re-enlistment does not simply secure them a job, but reaffirms their commitment to their service to the United States. These Soldiers and NCOs will continue their already successful careers in the Army.

Balka serves with Task Force Red Devils