Multi-National Division – Central Public Affairs Office
CAMP VICTORY, Iraq – The 3rd Infantry Division, headquartered at Fort Stewart, Ga., completed its fiscal year 2008 retention goal in less than six months, which most view as a phenomenal act.
This is unprecedented according to the division’s retention sergeant major. “I’ve been in this career field for 16 years, and I’ve never known of a division to meet its goal in such a short time,” said Sgt. Maj. Kelvin Raibon, the 3rd Infantry Division Retention sergeant major.
This is the division’s third deployment to Iraq since 2003, but its high operational tempo did not stop 4,000 Soldiers from re-enlisting. Even more troops will follow their lead, and by the end of March one battalion with the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, out of Fort Benning, Ga., will have met its retention goal twice.
The 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment is four Soldiers away from retaining 200 percent of its goal.
These Soldiers are working together to defend their nation. This is why they joined and why they re-enlisted, said Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Olson, 3rd BCT senior career counselor.
The 3rd Infantry Division, which is currently the headquarters for Multi-National Division – Center in southwest Baghdad, arrived in theater as part of the surge. Its Soldiers are serving a 15-month deployment with the combat mission to stop insurgents from bringing bomb-making materials into Baghdad. Within the year, Soldiers have secured most areas, and have begun working closely with the Iraqi security forces and tribal leaders to build the economy and make life better for its citizens.
The reason Soldiers are able to focus on helping the Iraq people is because of the support they receive from their Families and friends back home. Letters, e-mails and care packages from loved ones and strangers strengthen Soldiers’ resolve and lift their spirits.
There’s no one reason why Soldiers re-enlist, but for one Nashville, Tn., native, it was about love for his family and his country.
Spc. Cody Wilkins, a tank mechanic with 2nd Brigade Combat Team, admitted that he wasn’t prepared to end his military career and advice from his supervisor convinced him to stay in the Army.
“She worries about me,” Wilkins said about his wife Melissa, “but she supports me and enjoys the structured life that the military provides for her and my kids. She’s pleased with the decision I made.”
Wilkins, who has a daughter, age 5, and a 2-year-old son said he also renewed his commitment to the Army because he loves his country.
“Soldiers want to do more for their country – I know I do,” said Wilkins. “We re-enlist because of our patriotism.”
Leaders who take the time to listen to Soldiers’ wishes and circumstances make the biggest difference on retaining quality Soldiers, said Sgt. 1st Class Treyton Lock, the battalion career counselor with 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, 2nd BCT. People want to feel like they’re being taken care of and their concerns matter, he added.
The 3rd Infantry Division has conducted more than 12 mass re-enlistment ceremonies with visits from senior military leadership. All say that they know it’s not the monetary bonuses that retain Soldiers, but their leaders and the support from their families.