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YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — For the second straight year, Navy shore commands in Japan far exceeded their goals for retaining sailors, officials said Tuesday.

And for the second straight year, Commander U.S. Naval Forces Japan earned the Pacific Fleet retention award for its efforts.

Of the 1,700 first-term sailors in Japan eligible to re-enlist last year, 1,051 signed up for another go-round with the Navy. That 61.8 percent re-enlistment rate topped the command’s goal of 52 percent.

CNFJ also decreased its attrition rate — loss of sailors during a tour for any number of reasons — by more than 25 percent, reaching a goal the Chief of Naval Operations set last year.

“How we did that was to actively engage the leadership and challenge them to point the way,” said Chief Petty Officer Charles Traufler, regional career counselor of CNFJ.

“Before any sailor in Japan leaves the Navy, they have a personal interview with their CO and talk about their decisions.”

That personal attention, Traufler said, also is reflected in the work of the career counselors on the Navy’s six bases in Japan. Just eight counselors serve the more than 7,000 sailors assigned to shore commands, he said, but they strive to know each sailor by name.

“It really is a case-by-case decision as to what is best for that particular sailor. If someone wants to stay overseas, we can help with that, but it’s not always the best thing for that sailor’s career. All of the counselors are more than willing to say, ‘Your best bet is to go left here instead of right.’ The sailors appreciate that honesty.”

Another key was standardizing the basic information career counselors give to sailors throughout the region, Traufler said.

Navywide retention numbers are up as well. The Chief of Naval Operations’ annual message, distributed last week, said retention is “at record levels.”

At-sea staffing shortfalls were reduced by more than 36 percent in 2002; increased retention also let the Navy lower recruiting goals by more than 7,500 sailors, saving millions of dollars in recruiting and training costs.

“Your dedication and commitment to career motivation and excellence not only exemplify superb performance, but also attest to your concern for the personal and professional needs of our sailors,” said Adm. Walter F. Doran, Pacific Fleet commander, in a Navy message of congratulations.

“Every member of your command can be justifiably proud of this achievement.”

Traufler said command’s retention successes also could be attributed to re-enlistment bonus programs, increased training opportunities and better overall advancement rates.

In the coming year, CNFJ hopes to focus even more on recruiting for the Navy Reserve, Traufler said. In October, the command started a program specifically to educate sailors about joining the Reserves after leaving active duty.

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