UCA Training Helps to Educate, Retain the Force

  • Published
  • By TSgt. Dan Heaton
  • 127th Wing Public Affairs
About 100 Unit Career Advisors from Air National Guard units in 15 states spent three days at Selfridge Air National Guard Base in December, learning the myriad of details needed to excel in their career field. And, said one student in the UCA course, there's a lot to know.

"You are basically the point of contact for all benefits and for any number of obstacles a person is facing in his or her career," said Technical Sgt. Joshua Rogers, a UCA for the past two years and member of the 192 Airlift Squadron with the Nevada Air National Guard.

Rogers said the Dec. 12-14 course at Selfridge served as a refresher for him on various topics that he helps Airmen with on a regular basis, including educational benefits.

"I basically learned the hard way and didn't use some of the education benefits that I was entitled to," he said. "Now, I try to mentor younger Airmen and help them get what they have earned."

The Air National Guard lost more than 7,700 of what it calls "preventable losses" of Airmen - 6,910 enlisted members and 828 officers - in Fiscal Year 2012. The ANG said it cost about $431 million to train replacements for those Airmen.

"If we can keep those Airmen in the Air National Guard, that saves on expenses to the government and it enhances mission readiness for the individual wings, by keeping quality, trained people," said Master Sgt. Al Hight, wing retention manager for the 127th Wing at Selfridge and the host of training sessions. "By showing people the benefits that they have and helping them overcome obstacles, we increase our odds of retaining those people in the Guard."

TSgt. Carmela Rapadas, 254th Force Support Squadron, Guam Air National Guard, said good UCA should be personable and interacting with Airmen regularly across the various work sections, helping to motivate them to complete an Air National Guard career.

"We all need a little support sometime and that's where a good UCA can really make a difference," she said.

Perhaps the newest UCA attending the training sessions was TSgt. Alicia Kirton. A member of the 192nd Fighter Wing in the Virginia ANG, she was appointed as a UCA only a couple of weeks before the class.

"I didn't realize the depth of materials and information that a UCA needs to know," Kirton said during a break in the class. "Really, you are the commander's assistant for making sure that the enlisted force is reaching full potential. You can also let the commander know if there are obstacles that can be addressed at a command level."