Sgt. 1st Class Austin Dunlap, 615th Aviation Support Battalion, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, was named 1st Cav. Division’s Career Counselor of the Year on Oct. 13, following a rigorous two-day competition among the division’s top-performing career counselors.

The event incorporated a written test, body composition evaluation, and competition board appearance. 615th ASB was also recognized as the top retention battalion in the division, having achieved 130% of fiscal year 21 combined mission completion.

When asked how retention fits into the Army’s People First Initiative, Dunlap said, “Knowing and caring for the Soldier, recognizing that it is not just a number but a person with a family, is what makes retention successful.”

One of the most challenging decisions a Soldier will face, aside from joining the Army in the first place, is whether or not to continue serving. Career counselors help Soldiers make that decision. They provide Soldiers with credible re-enlistment options, schooling opportunities, reclassification openings and available bonuses. Assisting Soldiers with career choices quintessentially puts people first.

“People first is just that – taking care of people,” Master Sgt. Wallata Madison, senior career counselor for 1st Air Cav. Bde., said. “Every Soldier and situation is unique. As career counselors, we have the privilege of working one-on-one with Soldiers to meet their individual needs, wants, desires and tries to align them with the needs of the Army.”

The brigade retention team’s efforts resulted in 1st Air Cav. Bde. receiving the Top Small Brigade Retention Award, for having the highest overall percentage and closing out all assigned mission categories with combined overall completion of 108%. The team also received the Early Bird Award, given to the first brigade in the division to close out every assigned mission category.

Army Regulation 601-280, the Army Retention Program, states that retention incentive awards help enhance commanders’

abilities to accomplish the Army’s retention goals. Retention noncommissioned officers are mission enablers. They help ensure the Army retains the highest-quality people and help shape the Army talent management enterprise. Army readiness starts with the talent alignment of our people, giving us the enduring advantage as the world’s most lethal fighting force.

“Many of the Soldiers in aviation enlist in the Army on a five- or six-year contract and won’t enter their reenlistment window until they have already been in the Army for a few years,” Madison said. “The People First initiative reinforces leaders from the squad or team to get to know their Soldiers on a personal level and create an inclusive environment where everyone feels valued, respected and appreciated.”

Originally from Hernando, Florida, Dunlap has been a career counselor for six years, initially enlisting as a 92F Petroleum

Supply Specialist. Dunlap will represent the 1st Cav. Div. at the III Corps competition in November.

For more information about the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, please contact Capt. Taylor Criswell, brigade public affairs officer, at donald.t.criswell.mil@army.mil.