FORT POLK— The Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk retention team has been recognized as the top retention team in the U.S. Army’s Forces Command in the large direct reporting units category.

Brig. Gen. Patrick D. Frank, commander, JRTC and Fort Polk, said the results are an indication of the outstanding work done by the retention team.

“Reenlisting quality Soldiers at the JRTC and Fort Polk not only increases the ability of our team to provide excellent training to brigade combat teams and other units before they deploy down range, it also improves the esprit de corps of units on Fort Polk as they are able to retain top-notch Soldiers and helps the Army meet its end-strength goals,” Frank said.

“The JRTC and Fort Polk is known as the premiere training center in the Army and by retaining our best Soldiers, it ensures we will continue to be the leader in preparing our Armed Forces for combat operations.”

Sgt. Maj. James Chrisco, command retention sergeant major for the JRTC and Fort Polk, said the job could not have been accomplished without the support of the installation command team.

“The main difference I’m seeing is command involvement. We did a 180-degree turnaround and started seeing results. We informed the different subordinate commands of where their numbers were and where they needed to be,” he said. “Getting positive feedback from the commanders and their engagement with the retention team was a huge factor in our success. I’m talking from company command level all the way to the commanding general.”

The Army announced in September that it had achieved its goals for the year and signed more than 68,000 new Soldiers willing to serve the nation. FORSCOM groups retention teams into categories so that an installation like the JRTC and Fort Polk isn’t competing with smaller installations or larger teams belonging to XVIII Airborne Corps. 

Chrisco said his team points out the quality of life benefits for Families and that the decision to leave the Army doesn’t only affect the Soldier, but their Families as well. He said sometimes you must lay out the big picture and let Soldiers know that this assignment or their job description doesn’t permanently define their career. Career counselors explain the options a Soldier can take advantage of if they stay in the Army. Those options include cross training and possibly a retention bonus depending on the military occupation specialty the Soldier falls under. 

Chrisco said the efforts of the retention team have an impact on the Army as a whole. 

“If we don’t meet the Congressional end strength, that affects everything including readiness,” he said. “We are just a small piece of that pie but we set that as a goal for the team. We’ll make our numbers here by being more aggressive in tracking and contacting these Soldiers. That helps us, FORSCOM and the Army.” 

The JRTC and Fort Polk retention team came in sixth overall Army-wide, up from 11th place last year and first in FORSCOM in category three.