Camaraderie Is Key:

Senior Command Career Counselor Describes Personal Journey, Mentoring and Best Practices for Leaders

Master Sgt. Thomas H. Gould, Senior Command Career Counselor, 104th Training Division (Leader Training)

I was assigned to the 104th Training Division (Leader Training) on the 20th of September 2021.  I chose this assignment because I wanted to work in a challenging yet rewarding position serving on the division commanding general’s special staff.  Prior to this assignment, I was an area leader assigned to 11th Battalion, ARCG in Los Angeles, California, where I led a team of Army Reserve Career Counselors to great levels of success.  Some of my most memorable experiences stem from leading NCOs as an area leader and developing them to assume demanding positions within the Army Reserve.  Understanding that, I look forward to developing an entire organization to achieve retention excellence that lasts beyond my tenure.

From left to right, SFC Hunter, myself, SFC Rivera (top), SFC Nguyen (bottom), SFC Donaldson (top), SSG Santillana (bottom), SSG Bowman (top), SFC Varela (bottom), SFC Graham (top), SFC Maniago (far right). Celebrating SFC Nguyen’s massive 6200 gallon hand sanitizer donation during the height of the COVID 19 pandemic. 11th Battalion, ARCG, Area 6 Rough Riders was the team I was in charge of who led the way in both mission accomplishment and helping Soldiers and families.

Regarding my service and commitment, I joined the military because of family tradition.  I have supported the Army Reserve in a retention capacity since December 2006 and I occupied many different positions in the 79V career field.  I served as a battalion assistant operations NCO in Alabama, an Army Reserve Career Counselor for two battalions in Washington and Texas, a brigade assistant operations NCO as an IRR SELRES analyst at Fort Knox, Kentucky, an area leader in California, and now as a senior command career counselor (CCC) in the great state of Washington.  Prior to serving in a retention capacity, I supported the 326th Chemical Company out of Huntsville, Alabama, as a chemical operations soldier.

In my role as the division’s senior command career counselor, I serve primarily as an advisor for the division commander and I offer support for subordinate brigades with UNSAT mitigation, DARN training management, requests for information about reenlistments and extension concerns, and reenlistment and extension corrected copy support for the G1.  I also review corrected copy requests to ensure enlistment or reenlistment contracts requests align with policy and regulation and push those packets to G1 so they can send it to the appropriate signature authority.

I also ensure to disseminate Selected Reserve Incentives Program (SRIP) list updates which is known in most channels as the bonus list.  I find it is important that our units are up-to-date about changes because they impact retention.  The SRIP list is generally updated annually but semi-annual updates happen from time to time.  Lastly, I am also headed to the Army’s SHARP school to become the division’s victim advocate.

Gould and Cerda: Cerda (bottom left), myself (bottom right), supporting a fundraiser for deployed Soldiers during Team Spirit day. Cerda and I spent a lot of time together accomplishing officer accessions missions and we even had a moment to pop a Coca Cola at the Chief of the Army Reserve’s (LTG Helmly) house!

Another key but non-regulation guided role I embrace is to ensure brigade command career counselors receive regular professional development training and that they attend annual career counselor specific conferences to maintain relevance in their career path.  I also strongly empower them to communicate with their subordinate units, align their philosophies with the CG’s Intent, develop them as networkers, and develop into stellar trainers to support the division’s DARN (Duty Appointed Retention NCO) requirement.  

Most importantly, this incredible opportunity I have been afforded would not be possible if I was not mentored by many incredible senior NCOs.  I do not want to diminish any one of them and the impact they had on my development but one of my mentors, Sgt. Maj. (Ret) Cerda, had a tremendous impact on my Army outlook and growth.  He defined servant leadership before it was a popular term through words and actions.  He was what we now consider a Total Soldier.  He was also the first Army Reserve NCO of the Year in 2000 and lived the Army Values day in and day out.  Moreover, he is now a close personal and lifelong friend which is a testament of the impact of mentorship.

I want to reinforce that mentorship in the enlisted ranks is crucial because we all need that strong-handed leadership and assurance.  It is intended to help us grow and see things from perspectives other than our own.  I owe my mentors everything in developing me as a Soldier and person and it is my hope that you, the reader, are also a mentor or mentee with the right influences in life.  

As for me, I have mentored and developed many Soldiers throughout my tenure.  There is nothing more rewarding than watching people grow and go above and beyond in part of your influence.  It made me realize that every person you interact with can be impacted in a positive way which creates a ripple effect, a camaraderie, often lasting many years down the line.  One thing I learned that stuck with me was to always look to serve others and to live by doing things right no matter how hard it is.  I believe these small battles build the Army Reserve in a meaningful way.

Summer, 2003 standing by a piece of the Berlin wall with PV2 Rose (left), myself (middle), and PV2 Stratton (right). Good friends on our first basic training pass experiencing great times as 74D OSUT basic trainees.

In my many experiences, I believe camaraderie stands well above and beyond many extrinsic benefits for many soldiers.  The feeling of being part of something bigger than yourself is powerful and our incredible organization offers it.  The Army Reserve also offers many benefits for soldiers and their families ranging from education incentives, reenlistment bonus incentives, job incentives from P3O (Private Public Partnership), AGR (Active Guard and Reserve) opportunities, and career enhancing opportunities whether a new MOS or advancement to officer or warrant officer.

Lastly, I created an acronym called “C.A.R.E.” that sums up basic Soldier mentorship.  I believe it is important to execute this philosophy regularly in between Battle Training Assembly because communication is key in creating an inclusive and productive atmosphere:

C — Call / contact the Soldier

A — Ask how the Soldier is doing

R — Reassure that you’re there to support and guide them

E — Encourage them to grow in the profession

This simple philosophy focuses on communication, but it also establishes and builds relationships.  If you want people to continue serving, you must establish a relationship with them and share your Army story and experiences to inspire them to grow.  Be a mentor!

For leaders, please regularly reach out to your subordinates.  Commanders and first sergeants, communicate with your soldiers more often.  Involve yourself in the process of Soldier development by building a rapport with them.  Encourage your subordinate leaders to do the same.  First line leaders, C.A.R.E. for your subordinates and fuel the fire within them to grow into your position and beyond.  Soldiers, remember this when you become a leader and remember that the rubber meets the road with you.

In closing, the Army Reserve is not simply one weekend a month, two weeks a year.  It is a lifestyle!  I encourage you all to live the Army Values and to build those professional relationships because your leadership may affect someone to become a future Chief of the Army Reserve or Army Reserve command sergeant major.  Are you ready to accept the challenge?  USAR Reg 140-6, 1-7 says it best, “Retention is the sum of leadership actions that create a positive training environment and influence Soldiers to continue serving in the USAR, while enhancing unit personnel readiness.”

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