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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 Louisiana National Guard’s top recruiters at the Paragon Casino Resort in Marksville, Louisiana, Mar. 1.

During the ceremony, Brig. Gen. Thomas Friloux, adjutant general of Louisiana; Command Sgt. Maj. Clifford Ockman, senior enlisted leader of the LANG; Chief Warrant Officer 5 Robin Williams, command chief warrant officer 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 command.

“Recruiting can be known as a tough assignment. It’s highly numbers-driven and often involves quite a few ups and downs, successes and failures,” said Friloux. “To the leaders and recruiters in this room tonight, thank you for figuring out how to move the needle on enlistments…I’m asking you to remain motivated and dedicated to your recruiting mission this year, as well.”

During his speech, Friloux addressed each section of the RRB and thanked the families that support the leadership and recruiters as they recruit the ‘home team.’

“Thank you for supporting our recruiters, support staff, and leaders. Your support enables your spouse to be awesome at his or her job and enables the Louisiana National Guard to meet our recruiting goals,” said Friloux. “I’m immensely grateful to each family member in this room and know that our Guard could not be what it is today without you.”

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

“Recruiting the ‘home team’ extends beyond qualifying applicants and navigating the enlistment process,” said Prymek. “The life of a successful recruiter extends beyond the eight-hour workday, requires an investment in their communities and schools, and provides a commitment to their new Soldiers long after enlistment.”

During 2023, Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Gascon achieved 79 basic-branch appointments and accessions, and he was named the Officer Strength Recruiter of the Year. He received the Meritorious Service Medal and saber.

Master Sgt. Chad Wascom 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.

Master Sgt. Justin Ruiz was presented the Top Team Leader of the Year award, receiving the Meritorious Service Medal and an Eagle Trophy. This award was presented to him based on mission-complete percentage, both team and individual, and his team’s pass percentage of the Army Combat Fitness Test. Ruiz’s team achieved 116.7% of their team mission.

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

“Awarding our top performers provides them with the deserved recognition for exceeding the goals and with the validation that leadership respects their work,” said Prymek. “That enthusiasm also extends to their peers in the ceremony by giving them something to strive for while sending a strong message on how important our mission is to the Louisiana National Guard.”

Staff Sgt. Andrea Rayburn was presented the award for Recruiter of the Year, receiving the Meritorious Service Medal and the NCO Sword. In addition to Recruiter of the Year, Rayburn was presented the Eagle Trophy for Top Production Recruiter in the State, winner of the Strength Maintenance Advisory Group Region V boards for the top recruiter and will compete at the Director of Strength Maintenance Awards Ceremony for the top recruiter in the Nation.

“I feel extremely proud to represent my State and see the fruit of my hard work and dedication,” said Rayburn. “I wouldn’t be here without the young men and women who have trusted me to help them start their military careers.”

Rayburn achieved 47 enlistments in 2023, and it is the third consecutive year that the LANG has won the title of Top Production Recruiter in the Nation.

Rayburn explained that the secret to her successful recruiting is hard work, dedication, and honesty while believing in the National Guard family and what it has done for her.

“Knowing that by recruiting quality Soldiers, I can have a positive impact on the organization,” said Rayburn. “I believe I keep the recruits motivated because, in my office, we have a family environment where they feel welcomed and know someone has their back no matter what.”

Staff Sgt. Bradley Doucet received the Retention NCO of the Year award and the Meritorious Service Medal. He serves the 256th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, the largest brigade in the State.

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

Receiving the Army Commendation Medal, Sgt. 1st Class Robert Burns was named the Information System Specialist of the Year. Burns also won the SMAG V Automation NCO boards.

The ARCOM was also presented to Chief Warrant Officer 4 Raymond Harris, who was named Warrant Officer of the Year. Harris met his mission seven years in a row and achieved 113% of his assigned mission in FY23.

The ARCOM was presented to Sgt. 1st Class Ivania Breeto, Recruit Sustainment Program Cadre of the Year, and Sgt. 1st Class Brittany LaPoint, Drill Sergeant of the Year. LaPoint trained over 230 trainees at Detachment 2 and had a success rate of 90.20% for FY23.

Each year the RRB hires new recruiters and during their first full year, these recruiters work diligently to meet their goals and achieve mission success. At the end of each year, the new recruiter with the best record is named “Rookie of the Year.” This year, receiving the Army Achievement Medal, with a 1.33 write rate, Sgt. Emma White won the title of Rookie of the Year.

The Army Achievement Medal was also presented to Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Scroggs, Support Staff of the Year; and a plaque was presented to Mr. Charles “Mike” Lewis, MEPS Guidance Counselor of the Year.

The Louisiana Cross of Merit was presented to those recruiters with the highest percentage of enlistments: Staff Sgt. Ashley Reed, Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Reagan, Sgt. 1st Class Anthony Willis. These recruiters achieved 130% or higher of their assigned mission during FY23.

In addition to the individual achievements in FY23, the 18th RRB was the number one state by written rate (an average of 12.05 enlistments per recruiter), number one GC Team for Large MEPS (New Orleans), number two for medium-state raw enlistments: 982, number 3 for medium state in mission percentage: LANG had 90.2% (national average was 78.7%) and FY23 was the fourth consecutive year with a retention rate above 81%.

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