By Army Sgt. Carmen Guerrero
Special to American Forces Press Service
Oct. 6, 2008 - He hasn't always been a retention noncommissioned officer. In fact, he admitted he was a little leery at first about guiding soldiers down the path of re-enlistment. After all, he was on his first tour himself, and had no prior training to assume the vital role as retention NCO. Now however, Army Sgt. Mark Shamburger, of Hattiesburg, Miss., said it is a job he thoroughly enjoys since it provides him an opportunity to take care of soldiers.
Shamburger works in Multinational Division Baghdad with the personnel office of 890th Engineer Battalion, 926th Engineer Brigade, a National Guard unit based out of Gulfport, Miss. His mission of taking care of soldiers expands into other areas, as he also works as an equal opportunity leader. It can be quite a load, Shamburger said, but he accepted the tasks that were laid out in front of him and began running with them.
Shamburger acts as a liaison and career counselor for the companies that fall under the 890th Engineer Battalion, and said he provides information and guidance concerning questions about the Montgomery GI Bill, the Student Loan Repayment Program and the Selective Reserves Incentive Program. He said he also keeps soldiers informed of changes in their specific situations and provides insight for each soldier.
"Some extra things I do for my soldiers is provide them with a re-enlistment certificate, re-enlistment coin, and photographs to commemorate their extension in theater," Shamburger said. "Technically, these things don't have to be done, but I think it's a great way to thank soldiers for staying in the Army."
Shamburger has processed 36 enlisted soldiers' contracts for extension or re-enlistment bonuses. He also has assisted in the paperwork for six officers. The total combined years extended for enlisted and officers, he added, is 208 years, and bonus money the extending soldiers have received so far during the deployment amounts to $483,000 for enlisted soldiers and $120,000 for officers.
There are perks to the job as well, he said, citing July 4, 2008, when what officials here believe was the largest re-enlistment in the history of the armed forces took place at Al Faw Palace. More than 1,200 servicemembers from all branches of the military re-enlisted under the hand of Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, then the commanding general of Multinational Force Iraq. It was a day for the history books, Shamburger said, adding that he was proud to witness it.
"His job is critical in maintaining the strength of the 890th Engineer Battalion," said Army Capt. Phillip Moseley, the battalion's personnel officer, "as well as ensuring that each soldier gets their bonus for re-enlisting."
For Shamburger, however, it's just another day at the office doing what he enjoys best – taking care of soldiers.
"I love my job, retention especially," he said. "Taking care of soldiers is what I like doing. I was kind of hesitant about doing this job at first, but now I wouldn't trade it for anything else."
(Army Sgt. Carmen Guerrero serves in Multinational Division Baghdad with the 890th Engineer Battalion, 926th Engineer Brigade.)