NEWS | May 5, 2020

Virginia National Guard Airman is 2019’s top Unit Career Advisor in the nation

By Tech. Sgt. Lucretia Cunningham 192nd Wing Public Affairs

The National Guard Bureau announced the winners for the 2019 Air National Guard Recruiting and Retention National Awards on April 6, 2020. Among them is Staff Sgt. Jonquil Willard, a munitions control specialist with the Virginia Air National Guard’s 192nd Maintenance Squadron.

In an official memorandum to wing commanders and directors of staff, Willard was named as the 2019 Unit Career Advisor of the Year in the nation with superior retention programs.

The UCA position is a volunteer additional duty Willard has taken on with the objective to assist wing retention efforts by regularly engaging Airmen about their future plans within the military.

“Staff Sgt. Willard’s dedication to the wing, and more importantly to her fellow wingmen, are the reasons she is so deserving of this award,” said Col. Mark D. Piper, 192nd Wing commander. “Her passion for and ability to reach Airmen on a personal level is something we can all take note of. I’m very proud she’s part of our VaANG family.”

Sending homemade cookies and personal care packages to Airmen in technical training and others in her flight, Master Sgt. Lukas Hopkins, VaANG retention office manager, said Willard's efforts to revive her work center’s retention program have far exceeded expectations.

“It’s about a culture where an individual feels like they’re part of a family rather than an environment where people are just coming in to collect a paycheck,” Hopkins said. “She cultivates an interpersonal relationship between everybody, and not only herself, but she’s also boosting the relationship between the shop and the commander.”

Fulfilling her UCA duties, Willard also acts as a work center representative should concerns affecting retention need to be routed up the chain of command. After making nearly 30 overdue retention actions in the Ammo Flight compliant, Willard made it her personal responsibility to pursue a resolution for those concerns.

“I take what is said in the retention interviews, or things people said they wished were different, and act on them. Without outing who said what, we actually made those changes that people asked for,” Willard explained. “I really like ammo, so it’s really important for me to figure out why we were losing people, and then retain those people.”

UCA’s are versed in military entitlements, and Willard has become recognized in her flight as the familiar face who serves as a liaison for Airmen who can sometimes feel disconnected from the wing’s helping agencies and resources.

Willard went up for the national award following her win at the regional level in November 2019. VaANG recruiting and retention also brought home three regional awards at the time including Patriot Team of the Year, Region IV. The regional award recognizes the top wing recruiting and retention team taking into account job performance, outreach programs, Airman development and community involvement. The accomplishment came at the same time the 192nd Wing, the sole wing of the VaANG, reached 100 percent end strength.