First-time forum focuses on retention goals
By Patrick Buffett/Casemate
FORT MONROE, Va. (TRADOC News Service, July 21, 2005) – What does it take to maintain today’s Army and “grow” the future fighting force?
That question was the central focus of a first-time conference conducted at Fort Monroe July 12-14. Sixteen senior NCOs, representing U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command training centers and schools across the nation, gathered to discuss the command’s current retention program and future strategies that will ensure its continued success.
“We haven’t had any problem surpassing our retention goals over the past several years,” said Sgt. Maj. Khadijah Sellers, who became TRADOC’s overall retention program adviser in March. “However, our success is due to a lot of individual effort … I don’t think we shared clearly defined goals.
“The (Retention Senior Leaders Strategic Forum) adds that extra dimension,” the sergeant major said. “It’s a chance to analyze the way we do business and develop a common strategy for Fiscal Year 2006 and beyond.”
Topics discussed during the forum included attrition rates among first-term Soldiers, the career counselor’s role in promoting the Army spirit and the pros and cons of merging portions of the recruiting and retention programs.
“Why does someone stay in the Army?” posed Lt. Gen. Anthony R. Jones, TRADOC deputy commanding general and chief of staff, who was the featured speaker on the opening day of the event. “What do we do to keep it appealing? Do you consider the family when retaining a Soldier? What about recruiters … is there anything you can do to help them out?
“Those are just some of the questions you need to address during this forum,” the general continued. “We are an Army fighting a war and transforming at the same time. We need to maintain those crucial skill sets. We all share a huge responsibility.”
Encouraging “out-of-the-box thinking” when promoting the Army, Jones asked forum attendees to consider the efforts of pro-military organizations like the King and His Court – the exhibition fast-pitch softball team that Sports Illustrated refers to as the “Harlem Globetrotters of baseball.”
The team and its founder, retired Marine Eddie Feigner, visited Fort Monroe July 8. To date, the team has played more than 14,000 games in 104 countries, and their message is always the same: support the U.S. military and never forget the sacrifices that were made in the name of freedom.
“Does anyone here know what the theme is for the 2005 (Association of the U.S. Army) convention in Washington, D.C.?” Jones questioned. “It’s ‘Call to Duty,’ and it honors those people who have served their country in uniform.
“How many of us take the time to sit down and talk to our veterans of World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm and so on?” the general later challenged. “Many of them have amazing stories and are deeply proud of their military service … their call to duty. They are among our greatest spokespersons, and you need to consider how you can leverage that.”
The overall point of his talk, and the conference, Jones summarized is to encourage innovative thinking and foster a broader perspective of the Army recruiting and retention picture.
“If you can build that sense of pride – that realization that the benefit of military service goes far beyond monetary value – you can have an enormous impact on recruiting and retention figures.
“You have seen it yourselves,” Jones said, acknowledging the wealth of experience and years of service in the room. “Your experiences, your appreciation of life, your appreciation for the freedoms we enjoy … that will be with you for a long time.
“And it will be with those kids who have gone over to help the Iraqi and Afghani people stand on their own two feet," Jones said. "They have achieved something bigger than themselves, and they will be tomorrow’s ‘greatest generation.’”
Sellers noted that the ideas discussed during the forum will be carefully evaluated to determine if they might merit a change in procedure within TRADOC’s retention program. Of particular interest are recommendations to decrease attrition, support the recruiting effort and “team approaches” to recruiting and retention issues to ensure the Army meets its congressionally mandated endstrength.