RICHMOND, Va. –
The Virginia Army National Guard’s top recruiters traveled to Bethany Beach, Delaware, Nov. 8-10, 2022, for the opportunity to be named top among their regional peers. At the conclusion of Region II’s Strength Maintenance Advisory Group Conference, Staff Sgt. Sydney Mapp was named the region’s top recruiting noncommissioned officer, or Director’s 54; Master Sgt. Thomas L. Clarke Jr. was named the region’s top section chief, or Expert 7; and Staff Sgt. DeAndre McCall was named runner up for the region’s top rookie.
“Year after year, our Virginia recruiters continue to compete and represent the professionalism of the NCO Corps and they always exceed the standard,” said Lt. Col. Scott Nivens, commander of the Virginia Army National Guard’s Recruiting and Retention Battalion. “These boards are super important to not only award the most talented of the recruiting NCO Corps, but also to hone the skills and traditions that keep the NCO Corps the ‘backbone of the Army’ for all future NCOs.”
At the SMAG II Conference, top NCOs from six states and the District of Columbia came together to be named best in the region. In Virginia, the state’s topped recruiters were named in mid-October, and had just a few weeks to prepare to compete at the SMAG level.
“When you compete at the state level, you know your competition,” Clarke said. “When multiple states are brought together, familiarity is typically not present, which can bring uncertainty. Winning the state level is a great accomplishment, but competing against the rest of the SMAG and going up against leaders that are considered the best from their respective states allows you to really see where you stack up.”
As a rookie recruiter, competing at the SMAG made McCall feel like he was back in high school preparing for basketball playoffs.
“I was nervous, but also excited to have a chance to compete,” McCall said. “This experience engaged my competitive spirit and, also, raised my confidence as a recruiter.”
In preparing for the experience, all of Virginia’s competitors leaned on each other, their leaders and recruiting staff who preciously competed at the SMAG level or above.
“I took time every night before going to sleep to review the topics,” Mapp said. “I also say the “NCO Creed” almost like a habit every time I’m in the car.”
The night before their boards, the trio met up with Sgt. Maj. Paul Johnson, the Virginia National Guard’s Recruiting and Retention Battalion’s senior enlisted leader, for a last-minute review of their introductions.
“Boards are stressful. You could be razor sharp in your job and have the knowledge down pat, but once you’re there and doing the actual board, the nervousness can really take hold,” Mapp said. To combat the nerves, Mapp said he remembering to breathe provided integral, along with tackling the study material in bite-sized chunks. “Don’t try to study everything at once, it’s way easier to just commit to an hour a day.”
Along with expert knowledge on all things recruiting-related, the Virginia recruiters also share a deep passion for the ways military service in the National Guard can serve as a gateway to success for Soldiers who choose to serve.
“I love going to the high schools and possibly being beacon to someone’s success,” McCall said. “Getting phone calls from new Soldiers explaining new things they have learning while being in the Guard [and] helping them reach their goals and being proud of themselves, that’s the very best part of this opportunity.”
“I think that my decision to join the military was the best thing that I could have done for myself,” Clarke said. “Helping others to take advantage of the opportunity to serve is truly the best thing about this job.”
Following their success at the SMAG level, both Mapp and Clarke will move forward to compete at the national level against SMAG winners from across the nation. That competition will take place in New Orleans, Louisiana, early next year.
“It is an honor to go forward and represent the state of Virginia,” Mapp said. “Almost everything that I know about recruiting, I was taught by someone within the ranks of the Virginia Recruiting and Retention Battalion. I’m only able to be here because of them, and I am so grateful for their counseling, coaching and mentorship.”