RICHMOND, Va. — The Virginia Army National Guard Recruiting and Retention Battalion held its end-of-year boards to name their top performers Oct. 11, 2019, at the Virginia National Guard Sgt. Bob Slaughter Headquarters at Defense Supply Center Richmond, Virginia. Staff Sgt. Dustin Haislip was named as the 2019 Rookie of the Year, Sgt. 1st Class Jonathan Fretwell was named the 2019 Recruiter of the Year, Master Sgt. Donnie Brizendine was named the 2019 Expert Seven of the Year, and Sgt. Austin Strutz was named the 2019 Active Duty Operational Support Person of the Year.
“The end of the year boards highlight individuals who have dedicated themselves to ‘Growing the Force’ by exuding a high level of effort, duty, and selfless service,” said Sgt. Maj. Stephen H. Kopchak Jr., operations sergeant major for the Recruiting and Retention Battalion. “The boards are not simply an analysis of their accession numbers alone; we focused on enlistment quality, overall Army and NCO knowledge, physical fitness, and enlistee ship rate.
Each boarded Soldier was accompanied by a sponsor, who had up to three minutes to present the nominees before the board and to highlight their Soldier’s accomplishments. Board members selected one winner in each category based on the detailed analysis of the metrics and overall board performance.
“I love having a day where we get to celebrate fantastically awesome things that our Soldiers are doing,” said Lt. Col. Alyssa Astphan, commander of the Recruiting and Retention Battalion. “It’s just phenomenal to see everyone up here. The fact that they are here shows that they are the best of their peer group, within each of their respective companies.”
This year’s selection as the Expert Seven was the second in a row for Brizendine. The selection recognizes the top noncommissioned officer-in-charge across Virginia’s nine recruiting areas.
“It was my team that got me here,” said Brizendine. “We had a mission of 96 and we ended the year at 107.”
In addition to his selection as the expert seven, Brizendine also served as Haislip’s sponsor and helped him prepare for the board.
“I would not be here if it was not for Master Sgt. Brizendine,” said Staff Sgt. Dustin Haislip. “Having someone that has been through this before helps a lot.”
“Haislip’s dedication to duty is probably second to none,” said Brizendine. “He refuses to fail and does whatever it takes to hit the mission. He works extra hours, makes extra phone calls, and also conducts extra interviews.”
Brizendine said Haislip exceeded his mission by 66 percent, that he got what was required, and kept driving through.
Fretwell previously won Rookie of the Year and ADOS of the Year and is currently the on-campus recruiter for James Madison University. He needed 17 enlistments for the year to make his mission and he recruited 20.
“Time management is essential, and it makes a difference between your personal life and your work life,” said Fretwell.
Both Fretwell and Brizendine will go on to represent Virginia at the Region II Strength Maintenance Advisory Group boards later this year.
“Our winners this year did not achieve this great feat alone; they had the support of their loved ones, the training from their leaders and peers, and the push from the great NCOs within the Recruiting and Retention Battalion,” said Kopchak. “I am confident our 2019 winners will prove to be highly competitive at the SMAG II boards next month and at the national level boards in December.”