RICHMOND, Va. –
At the Director of the Army National Guard’s Strength Maintenance Conference, Virginia Army National Guard recruiters came in as runners up for both the top recruiter and top section chief in the nation. Staff Sgt. Sydney Mapp took the second place top recruiter spot, called the Director’s 54, while Master Sgt. Thomas Clarke Jr. took the second place section chief, or Expert 7, spot. Over the last decade, this level of excellence has become the standard for Virginia.
“There has been only one year in the last decade that Virginia didn’t have a Soldier competing for the national honors in either the Director’s 54 of Expert 7,” explained Sgt. Maj. Paul Johnson, senior enlisted leader for the Virginia Army National Guard’s Recruiting and Retention Battalion. “I feel this is a true testament to the caliber of leadership we have had in this battalion and will continue to have for the next decade.”
The annual DSMAC, held this year in New Orleans, Louisiana, provides not just an opportunity to recognize the nation’s top recruiters, Johnson explained. It also allows a chance for those recruiters, along with their leadership teams, to network, share best practices and bring helpful tips and tricks back home to their respective states.
For Mapp and Clarke, getting to the DSMAC started with a lot of hard work at home in Virginia, where the two first competed against their peers with an appearance board.
“I went into the state level thinking that I didn’t have a chance to win because I was going up against some of the heaviest hitters in the state,” Mapp said.
Once named the best in Virginia, they traveled to Bethany Beach, Delaware, to compete against their regional peers from six neighboring states and Washington, D.C. There, for the third time in the last 10 years, Virginia cinched wins for both the Director’s 54 and Expert 7, according to Johnson.
“Just being able to be there at the regional level representing Virginia recruiters was a huge honor for me,” Mapp said.
At all levels, Johnson said what the board looks for in a winner is a well-rounded and successful Soldier.
“Naturally we are looking for a well-manicured Soldier in a squared away uniform,” said Johnson. “Their production numbers also play a factor in their total score, but it goes much deeper than that.”
Recruiting knowledge is important and something the boarded Soldiers will be quizzed on, but the board members are also looking for recruiters with a width breadth of knowledge in U.S. Army customs, courtesies and traditions.
“We want to see confidence in your answers and elaboration on open-ended questions,” Johnson said. “The open conversation with the competitors gives us insight to the real NCO behind the spit and shine.”
To prepare, both Clarke and Mapp enlisted those around them. Clarke called on his leaders and Soldiers to ask him random questions, prepared note cards and read regulations and made time each day to study. Mapp, similarly, enlisted his family and peers to help him prepare.
“I badgered my wife, kids and coworkers to quiz me on my knowledge,” Mapp said. “I probably recited the NCO Creed thousands of times.”
Mapp said finding time to study was sometimes a challenge as he worked to balance the daily demands of being a recruiter for the Virginia Army National Guard, but that the preparations and the studying helped bring him back to basics.
“I think that sometimes, as recruiters, it can be easy for us to lose a little bit of touch with some of the more refined skills of being a leader of Soldiers. Through preparation and studying, I was able to reflect and gain insight on how I can better apply the basics of being an NCO to my recruiters and [Recruit Sustainment Program] Soldiers, which will in turn benefit my program,” Mapp explained. “If you always care about the welfare of your Soldiers, your Soldiers will make sure you accomplish your mission.”
Clarke said the studying and preparations allowed him to ensure he’s current on all the latest guidance, which is essential given how much of his job includes relying on regularly guidance and processes.
For others hoping to compete at the state, regional or national level, Clarke said, for recruiters, they need to have something more than just numbers.
“What makes you different, what story do you present that can give you the extra point needed to win a board over similarly great recruiters that you will be competing against?” Clarke asked. For section chiefs, Clarke suggested giving credit where credit is due.
“Lead your Soldiers to success and then be able to tell about how that success was achieved. Know your Soldiers and ensure you as a section chief give your [recruiting and retention NCOs] the credit, as none of us would be in this position without the work that they put in day in and day out,” Clarke said.
Part of Clarke’s preparation for the board was ensuring he could adequately explain the contributions and success of his team.
“I recognized that I would not be in this position if it wasn’t for the performance of my team through the previous year, and ensured I prepared a testimony about them that I was able to present to those sitting on my board,” Clarke explained.
Ultimately, the DSMAC, and all the effort it took for Virginia’s competitors to get there, provided an opportunity for those Soldiers to stand out amongst their peers. According to Johnson, competing and succeeding at this level also results in awards that applicants will see as they’re working through the process of joining the National Guard that will help them to recognize that they are working with some of the best recruiters in the state, region and nation.
“We have pride in our Soldiers, win or lose, and we know they represented to the best of their ability,” Johnson said.