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La. National Guard top recruiters recognized during ceremony

By Staff Sgt. Noshoba Davis, Louisiana National Guard Public Affairs

PINEVILLE, La. – The Louisiana Army National Guard’s 18th Recruiting and Retention Battalion held its annual awards ceremony to recognize the LANG’s top recruiters at the Country Inn and Suites in Pineville, Louisiana, Mar. 3.

During the ceremony, Maj. Gen. Keith Waddell, adjutant general of the LANG; Command Sgt. Maj. Clifford Ockman, senior enlisted leader of the LANG; Col. Marc Prymek, 18th RRB commander; Command Sgt. Maj. Patrick Sandel Jr., 18th RRB command sergeant major; and other distinguished guests recognized recruiters that displayed a dedication to the organization and demonstrated a level of professionalism beyond those goals set by LANG’s recruiting and retention.

“Thank you for everything that you do … I’m eternally grateful for what you do day in and day out for our organization,” said Waddell.

During his speech, Waddell asked the recruiters what his four goals are for the LANG. “It’s readiness, support deploying and redeploying units, all-hazards, and moral, legal and ethical service. Those are the things you need to know because your efforts contribute to our organization.”

In striving to reach their best, these recruiters have helped increase the effectiveness of LANG units, their command and the entire organization.

“Recruiting is a three-legged stool: recruiting, retention and attrition management. I can tell you that the last two years of retention have been through the roof, and you guys are killing it,” said Prymek. “We just had the best three months of recruiting in the last two years.”

January 2023 was the best month for RRC since March 2021 with 91 enlistments … 94 including interstate transfers and in-service recruiting.

Having achieved 19 basic branch appointments and accessions during 2022, 1st Lt. Candace Dragon was named as the Officer Strength Recruiter of the Year, receiving the Meritorious Service Medal and saber.

Master Sgt. Tommy Tidwell, Jr. was presented the Section Chief of the Year award, receiving the Meritorious Service Medal and the noncommissioned officer (NCO) sword for distinguished performance and outstanding achievement.

“It wasn’t anything I really did. I must give all credit to my Soldiers. They were the outperformers,” said Tidwell. “This is by far the best team I’ve been blessed to be a part of … if it weren’t for them wanting to work so hard for our section and our state, I wouldn’t even be in the position I am.”

Sgt. 1st Class Danyon Thomas was presented the Top Team Leader of the Year, receiving the Meritorious Service Medal and an Eagle Trophy. This award was presented to Thomas based on mission-complete percentage, both team and individual, and his team’s pass percentage of the Army Combat Fitness Test.

Thomas’ team achieved 82.9% of their team mission, and two of his five recruiters achieved their individual missions, along with a 100% ACFT pass rate.

Recruiters are judged in several categories including recruiter and Soldier performance under the total Soldier concept during a board conducted by leaders and peers.


Staff Sgt. Christian Knoll was presented Recruiter of the Year receiving the Meritorious Service Medal and the NCO Sword. In addition to Recruiter of the Year, Knoll was presented the Eagle Trophy for Top Production Recruiter in the state, winner of the Strength Maintenance Advisory Group (SMAG) Region V boards for the top recruiter and will compete at the Director of Strength Maintenance Awards Ceremony (DSMAC) for the top recruiter in the nation.

“The secret to my success is putting my time and efforts into every individual and to work as hard as I can,” said Knoll, a Shreveport native. “It feels great being able to bring this award (top recruiter) back to A Company having never won this award before.”

Knoll achieved 233 percent of his assigned recruiting mission. He also received the Louisiana Cross of Merit for obtaining more than 130 percent of his overall mission.

“The recruiting field has become more challenging over the last three years, but we are using experiences to motivate men and women in the community to serve their country,” said Knoll.

Achieving a 95.3 percent retention rate, the highest retention percentage for the year, Staff Sgt. Aaron Staves was presented Retention NCO of the Year receiving the Meritorious Service Medal.

The Louisiana Cross of Merit Award, the Army Commendation Army, the Louisiana Commendation Medal and the Louisiana Achievement Medal were all awarded to recruiters that more than 100% of their overall mission within the year.

Sgt. 1st Class Jade Mays was named the Top Marketing Noncommissioned Officer in the state, receiving the Army Commendation Medal. Mays also won the SMAG VMarketing NCO boards and will compete at the DSMAC for a chance to be named the Top Marketing NCO in the Nation.

The ARCOM was presented to Sgt. 1st Class Robert Burns, the Information System Specialist of the Year; Sgt. 1st Class Veronica Salgado, Recruiting Sustainment Program (RSP) NCO of the Year; Staff Sgt. Andrew Blaze, RSP Cadre of the Year; and Staff Sgt. Darrel Rivarde, Drill Sergeant of the Year.

Over the last year the LANG’S RSP has moved up from being ranked 48th nationally to 27th by increasing the ship rate, training success and incorporating a program known as “Bring a Buddy to Drill” … an effort that during February 2023 resulted in more than 350 leads and four new enlistments.

Salgado led Detachment 6 to the highest ranked RSP site in the state, and Rivarde trained more than 375 trainees within the detachments giving him a success rate of 92.39%.

The Army Achievement Medal was presented to Sgt. 1st Class Austin McNeely, Support Staff of the Year; and Sgt. 1st Class Woodrow Rachal, MEPS Guidance Counselor of the Year.

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