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Brigade's Re-enlistments in Iraq Exceed Expectations

By Sgt. 1st Class Peter Chadwick, USA
American Forces Press Service

CAMP TAJI, Iraq, July 7, 2005 – All leaders should be involved in retention if they believe in the volunteer Army, an Army career counselor stationed in Iraq with the 3rd Infantry Division said.

"It's every leader's job," said Sgt. 1st Class José A. Urbáez, of the 87th Corps Support Battalion.

On point with the Army's retention program, Urbáez' Division Support Brigade unit is leading a calculated charge at keeping good soldiers "in boots" here.

The support brigade is second only to the Aviation Brigade for the most re-enlistments in the 3rd Infantry Division for Operation Iraqi Freedom 3, said Master Sgt. Robert D. Morris, Division Support Brigade re-enlistment noncommissioned officer.

Morris said the unit re-enlisted 260 percent of its goal for January to March. The brigade's mission was for 50 soldiers; they re-enlisted 130.

Since April, the support unit has retained in excess of 550 soldiers, said Morris, whose home is in Ludowici, Ga. By the end of their deployment to OIF 3, DSB is looking forward to retaining 904 soldiers to cover their total mission.

But, the 87th CSB, nicknamed "Base Warriors," doesn't seem to be satisfied with just "making mission." Urbáez said his battalion has already made its retention mission in one category and over-produced in another.

The battalion is at 100 percent of its goal for mid-career soldiers and 114 percent for soldiers at the career level. Mid-career soldiers have re-enlisted at least once and has 10 or fewer years in service at the end of their current term of service, Morris said. Careerists have served 10 or more years at the end of their current term of service.

The 87th CSB is at 78 percent of its goal for initial-term soldier re-enlistments.

The 92nd Engineer Battalion, a DSB unit currently detached to the 36th Engineer Group, actually has a better percentage than the 87th, but is on a mission for fewer numbers.

Units get their mission from the Department of the Army based on eligible soldiers vs. the needs of the Army, said Morris. Everything is on a fair-share basis, he added.

Morris said the Army first calculates what the service's end-strength needs will be at the end of the fiscal year in September, factoring in possible losses like retirement, and then "back plans" from there. Mission requirements are passed down through each level of command. It goes from corps to division, division to battalion and so on until each commander down to the company level is given a retention mission.

Morris said the strength of the retention program reflects the chain of command. "We have strong chain-of-command support all the way from the colonel and command sergeant major down to the platoon sergeants and platoon leaders," Urbáez said.

Capt. James E. Gannon, commander of the 94th Maintenance Company, recognizes how important the leaders at the platoon and shop level are. "They influence the people who work for them," said the Richland, Wash., native, whose company is at an astounding 400 percent of mission for careerist re-enlistments.

"I don't think we have a secret recipe," said Gannon, whose unit is nicknamed the "Hard Chargers."

Gannon said retaining good soldiers starts with the daily operations of the unit. There's a lot of good going on every day, said Gannon. The supervisors make sure people feel appreciated for their efforts. Gannon has pictures of soldiers who were selected as "Hard Charger of the Week" posted on his door -- just one way of making sure members of his company are recognized.

Spc. Sheldon P. Nicholas, a turret mechanic with the Hard Chargers, is certain he makes a difference. "I'm pretty good at what I do," Nicholas said. He added that he plans to re-enlist in the next couple of weeks.

Nicholas said he is re-enlisting for stabilization at Fort Stewart with the "school option," a division commander's program that allows soldiers at Fort Stewart, Ga., to have about six months of college while on active duty.

"The benefit to the Army is a better educated soldier," Urbáez said. "The benefit to the soldier is more education and promotion points."

Nicholas, who will soon be promoted to sergeant, wanted the stabilization for his wife and children. "I want to provide for my family," he said. Nicholas will also be getting a cash bonus.

Urbáez said 104 of 114 soldiers re-enlisting in his unit received a bonus. The bonuses average about $10,000 and are tax-free when they're awarded in a combat zone.

(Army Sgt. 1st Class Peter Chadwick is assigned to the Division Support Brigade Public Affairs Office.)

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