Sgt. Chris McCann
2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI) PAO
Multi-National Division – Center
CAMP STRIKER, Iraq — Retention numbers in the Army remain high as Soldiers choose to re-enlist, even with the current pace of deployments.
The 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) out of Fort Drum, N.Y., is the most-deployed unit in the Army, but is posting retention numbers that continue to climb – like the unit motto, “Climb to glory,” which recalls the division’s scaling of Italian peaks during World War II.
The Army counts retention by the fiscal year, said Master Sgt. John Cavaliere, of Amsterdam, N.Y., 2nd BCT’s senior career counselor. Soldiers re-enlisting are counted between Oct. 1 and Sept. 30 each year, with goals set according to the Army’s projected needs.
“The 2nd BCT – we made our goal three months ahead of schedule,” said Cavaliere, whose office continues to re-enlist Soldiers. “That’s a huge command-climate indicator.”
Cavaliere says he believes that Soldiers continue to re-enlist – “re-up,” in Army slang – because they believe in their leadership and the mission.
“The leadership has bought into the Commando philosophy,” Cavaliere said. The 2nd BCT is known as the “Commando Brigade.” “If that command climate isn’t there, Soldiers won’t re-enlist. But the senior leadership in this brigade tells their story, tells what the Army has done for them. And that helps.”
"Soldiers who believe in their fellow Soldiers, their leaders and the Army for themselves and their families re-enlist," said Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno, commanding general, Multi-National Corps - Iraq. "Even in the most complex and difficult combat operations in Iraq, their confidence and pride in their mission and each other are compelling factors in their decision to continue service."
Cavaliere travels around 2nd BCT’s area of operations with brigade commander Col. Michael Kershaw as he circulates among the troops. Travel gives Cavaliere a chance to talk to Soldiers in far-flung outposts around the area.
“I’m always talking about re-enlistment,” he said. “Soldiers come up and ask me about it all the time. And we’re re-enlisting Soldiers daily – there might have been a few days during this deployment when we haven’t re-enlisted somebody, but we’ve re-enlisted more than 800 Soldiers while we’ve been here.”
The 2nd BCT has been deployed for more than a year. Several re-enlistments have been mass ceremonies conducted by visiting generals, such as the one on nearby Camp Victory July 16, in which Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Peter Pace administered the oath. More than 40 Commandos raised their right hands to re-enlist in that one. The 10th Mtn. Div. (LI) commanding general, Maj. Gen. Michael Oates, will visit the 2nd BCT soon and conduct a similar ceremony.
More than $8 million in bonuses to re-enlisting troops have been paid to Commando Soldiers during the fiscal year, Cavaliere said.
“The Army realizes what keeps Soldiers in the service,” he said. “Choice of assignment, money and stabilization.”
Despite Fort Drum’s deserved reputation for frigid temperatures, which can make it unpopular with troops from warmer areas, Soldiers who have spent time at Drum seem to like it.
“Many Soldiers are re-enlisting to stay at Fort Drum,” Cavaliere said. “And a lot of them are staying with the Commando Brigade.”
Cavaliere said Soldiers realize what they are getting into when they join the Army, especially after Sept. 11, 2001. There are no illusions about deployments. And when Soldiers choose not to re-enlist, he said, there are no hard feelings.
“The military’s not for everyone,” he said. “But after what Soldiers have done, even if they choose not to re-enlist, you have to shake that Soldier’s hand and say ‘thank you for your service.’”
For those who do choose to re-up, he said, it makes him proud to be a part of that choice.
“If I can help one Soldier, that makes me feel great,” Cavaliere said. “We need to take the Army’s needs, and match that to a Soldier’s needs, and if we can do that every day, we’ve done a great service to our country.”
Monday, August 27, 2007
Sgt. Chris McCann