Retention noncommissioned officers and career counselors normally focus their energies on retaining the best. But “re-up” NCOs across the 21st Theater Sustainment Command strove to be the best during a Retention NCO and Career Counselor of the Year competition conducted in November and early December.
Winners earned command bragging rights and an opportunity to compete at the U.S. Army Europe board later this month in Wiesbaden.
The event is an individual competition; but success requires strong leadership and a team effort. The TSC command sergeant major, who personally presided over the event, emphasized the role of NCO leadership in developing and preparing candidates for success during the competition.
“It is extremely admirable for these soldiers to step up to compete to show their leaders that they are best of the best,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Rodney Rhoades, the senior enlisted leader of the 21st TSC and the president of the boards. “But once they step up, it is their unit supervisor and their sergeant major’s job to assure that he or she is completely prepared for this competition.”
The competition included a written exam covering a variety of general and specialized topics and the Army Physical Fitness Test. It culminated in a competitive board held at the main command retention hub at TSC headquarters on Panzer Kaserne. Candidates needed to demonstrate not only general military knowledge and leadership qualities, but exceptional knowledge of and proficiency in their career specialty.
The board itself began like any other, with the candidate knocking at the door, entering the room and announcing his or her presence to the board. Once inside the board room, each board member inspected the competitor’s uniform, literally from head to toe. Are the medals and decorations straight? Does their uniform meet or exceed standards? Do the pant legs hang too high or low?
Uniform inspection is just the beginning. Each candidate must be able to recite both the NCO and Soldier’s creeds, and they must do so “loud and proud.”
“Don’t be nervous when you come in front this or any other board,” Rhoades told nervous candidates. “Be proud and confident that you are here – that you have stepped up and put yourselves in front of leaders.”
Some of the most distinguished leaders in the command and even the region asked an array of questions pertaining to general military topics, career-specific knowledge and leadership during the board. The complexities and nuances of retention regulations, policies and updates amid a continuously evolving Army challenge even the most seasoned of career field leaders. Changing both force structure and priorities mean retention NCOs and career counselors must constantly incorporate new information and new guidance into their mission.
Board members asked about topics ranging from Reserve Component issues and reenlistment incentives to the Soldier for Life program and the impact of profiles and other limitations on reenlistment options.
Each candidate must demonstrate knowledge as retention subject matter experts, Rhoades said, but demonstrating leadership is just as important.
“We are looking at the whole soldier concept,” Rhoades said. “Leadership is an important part of any board. If you have a solid leadership basis, you can accomplish anything.”
The competition ultimately determined who would represent the TSC at the upcoming USAREUR contest, scheduled for Dec. 14 to 16. Just as importantly, it served as an important developmental tool for reenlistment NCOs, career counselors, leaders and even organizations.
Rhoades offered wise counsel to participants and leaders alike.
“Always take the initiative to distinguish yourselves among your peers,” Rhoades said. “This is a small career field. It is very important to compete at any opportunity for any board like this. It is imperative that the Soldier’s supervisor and organization be very involved in the competition process; there’s a reason the supervisors are in the room during the Soldier’s turn in front of the board.”