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Home > UNS > 150209-01



USASOC hosts a week full of career counselor events

By Sgt. 1st Class Thaddius S. Dawkins II
United States Army Special Operations Public Affairs

FORT BRAGG, N.C. (USASOC News Service, Feb. 9, 2015)  -- The U.S. Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) hosted Fort Bragg's quarterly retention training, followed by the USASOC Career Counselor of the Year competition Feb. 3-5, 2015.

Command Sgt. Maj. George Bequer, USASOC command sergeant major, began the full of day training by speaking to the audience about the importance of Army retention.

"The Army is an organization of people," he said. "We don’t have large aircraft or large boats. Our money is put into our people. Our money and our training are funneled into providing capable leadership on the ground combat aspect of the battle field. With that being said, what we deal with in retention is a very tactical tool for us. Without retention we cannot survive as an Army."

Following Bequer's opening comments, the training provided informative briefs on several hot topics Career Counselors are currently dealing with -- the upcoming changes to the Army's Noncommissioned Officer Evaluation Report (NCOER), the Qualitative Service Program (QSP), the Qualitative Management Program (QMP) and briefings specifically related to the career counselor military occupational specialty (MOS) career field.

"My intent was to make sure we had professional training that's needed," said Sgt. Maj. Mark A. Thompson, USASOC's Command Career Counselor. "Retention in the Army evolves constantly with the ever-changing congress-mandated end strength."

With the Army continuing to reduce its overall numbers, Thompson stressed the importance of using the retention program to keep the Army's most qualified Soldiers.

"Retention is not a drawdown tool and it never has been," he said. "As Career Counselors or retention professionals, we have to ensure that we stay up to speed so that we can give the command and Soldiers advice on how to maintain their quality force during a drawdown. Retention is paramount."

An important step for Career Counselors to ensure the Army maintains a quality force is to know all of the measures in place to help determine the quality of a Soldier that is interested in reenlisting. Thompson made it a point to have the Army's most qualified NCOs on hand to brief the most up-to-date changes with the NCOER and QMP/QSP process.

"With the training we had Tuesday, we were lucky to have subject matter experts from Army Human Resources Command come in and brief us on the new NCOER and QMP/QSP," he said. "The afternoon was geared more towards retention specific training."

Following the all-day training Tuesday, USASOC Career Counselors began to switch gears and prepare for the USASOC Career Counselor of the Year competition which took place Wednesday and Thursday. The competition, modeled off the Secretary of the Army's Career Counselor of the Year competition, tested the participants in physical fitness with an APFT and tested their MOS knowledge by taking a 50 question exam Wednesday, followed by an oral board Thursday morning. During the board, the NCOs were asked questions by some of Fort Bragg's most senior Career Counselors that tested their MOS proficiency.

"As we get closer to the Secretary of the Army competition, you can feel more and more pressure," said Sgt. 1st Class Bridget A. Schluter, career counselor for the Group Support Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne). "It becomes very stressful and as a new counselor with just over a year in the career field, I completely agree with having us go to the boards. I've learned so much from studying and preparing for this competition."

After the competition concluded with an oral board Thursday morning, the winner was announced in the afternoon during a ceremony at USASOC headquarters.

Staff Sgt. Ricky Ichihara, Career Counselor for 3rd Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne), received the honor of being named USASOC's Career Counselor of the Year. He will now begin preparing to compete against the rest of the Army during the Secretary of the Army's Career Counselor of the Year competition later this year.

"I'm excited and happy all my studying paid off," Ichihara said. "I'm also extremely honored that the USASOC retention team has given me the opportunity to compete at the Secretary of the Army's Career Counselor of the Year competition."

As the week came to a close, Thompson reiterated the importance of the quarterly training and Career Counselor of the year competition, especially to the USASOC retention community.

"With as important as human capital is in USASOC, making sure our career counselors remain relevant to the ever-changing Army Retention Program is vital," he said. "The USASOC retention office is going to ensure that we have these quarterly structured training sessions to ensure our Career Counselors receive the most up-to-date information on all the programs we are responsible for.

As for the the career counselor of the year competition, it's something that culminates at the highest level and incentivizes our career counselors to be the best in their craft, which is something that transcends all MOS's in USASOC. That's one of the privileges of being inside USASOC -- being surrounded by professionals. That's what makes me happy about being a part of this command and that's why everyone wants to stay in USASOC for as long as possible."