RICHMOND, Va. — In mid-March, a select few of Virginia’s Army National Guard recruiters traveled to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, for a chance to be named top among their regional peers. Sgt. 1st Class Brian Adams was named the region’s top recruiting noncommissioned officer, Sgt. Dakota Baughan was named the region’s top rookie recruiter, and Master Sgt. Jessica Dickenson earned the region’s runner-up spot for top section chief.
“We compete to recognize those Soldier’s that went above and beyond their assigned missions at the state level,” explained Master Sgt. Paul Johnson, the noncommissioned officer-in-charge of operations for the Virginia National Guard’s Recruiting and Retention Battalion, and who previously competed as both a recruiter and section chief. Johnson said the competition is an annual event and Virginia is part of Region II’s Strength Maintenance Advisory Group, or recruiting region. SMAG II includes six states, plus the District of Columbia.
“You don’t accidentally compete for top honors in recruiting,” Johnson said. “It comes from a minimum of 12-24 months of building a program, weathering numerous setbacks and having the fortitude and desire to see it through and be among the best.”
As the top regional recruiting NCO, Adams will go on to represent the region at the national-level later this year in Key West, Florida.
“I am thankful for the opportunity that the Virginia Army National Guard has given me,” Adams said. “It has been a really enjoyable experience. I have learned more than I ever thought I would, and I have loved the traveling and the entire experience. I can’t wait for Key West!”
Before representing Virginia at the regional level, Soldiers first competed at their local level. Soldiers are selected based on how successful they are at their recruiting mission, their understanding of their career field and their performance in front of a board.
“We actually held two boards in our area, then we had a company board, then we had the state board,” Dickenson explained. After being selected to represent the state, she said the group frequently gathered to study. “In preparation for all the boards, we toted index cards around, hit up former boardees for questions, read references and quizzed each other.”
She said the experience was “great,” both as a competitor as a mentor to her Soldiers, and said it was a nice chance for Virginia’s recruiters to gain recognition beyond state lines, while also broadening their knowledge base.
“It's important because now we're all a little smarter, a little more well-informed and can take that to our jobs and our teams,” Dickenson said. “We can use that information in what we do, and it also instilled a little bit of extra pride to think about our roots and what we do. All around, this opportunity challenged all of us and made us better NCOs.”
Both Dickenson and Adams said their participation in the event allowed them to also learn from their peers and network with other recruiters in their region.
“I enjoyed the opportunity to meet the people from other states. We had some great discussions about what works, what doesn't and how we're addressing common challenges,” Dickenson said.
With the regional-level boards behind them and nationals ahead for Adams, he says he’s going to keep studying.
“Preparing for nationals is similar to preparing for the SMAG,” Adams said. “Just loads and loads of studying.”