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80th Training Command instructors compete for top honors

By SFC Elizabeth Breckenkamp | 80th Training Command | Oct. 26, 2018

Fort Knox, KY — The 80th Training Command’s best instructors proved themselves at the command’s 2018 Instructor of the Year Competition here Oct. 18-20, 2018. Twenty-one Army Reserve instructors from across the command’s three training divisions and the 4960th Multifunctional Training Brigade contended for the top prize in three categories: enlisted, officer, and civilian.

Staff Sgt. William Jacobson, an instructor with the Health Services Brigade, 94th Training Division, beat out the competition in the Noncommissioned Officer category. Mr. Ryan Klagenberg, an instructor for the 102nd Training Division’s High Tech Training Center-Sacramento, earned the top civilian IOY award. An instructor with the 80th Battalion, 97th Training Brigade, 100th Training Division, Lt. Col. Adam Pannone was awarded the IOY title in the officer category.

Sgt. 1st Class Danny Austin, the training management NCO for the 80th TC in Richmond, Virginia, said this is the first year he has been in charge of the IOY competition. But the competition isn’t new to him. As an instructor for the Field Mechanical Maintenance classes, Austin competed in this annual event in 2016.

“I enjoyed competing as an instructor, so I think that puts me at an advantage in heading up this year’s event,” Austin said. “I understand really well what the competitors went through to get here.”

Austin explained the intent for the competition was to bring together the finest instructors from throughout the command’s down-trace units.

“This competition is top notch because it brings together our absolute best instructors who demonstrated their unique talents in classroom settings,” said Austin. “It allows them to shine in what they are trained to do.”

Proper training is essential in sustaining the U.S. Army Reserve’s effectiveness as a ready and capable fighting force. Instructors throughout the 80th TC provide the highest quality training to Soldiers in all three components: Regular Army, Army Reserve, and the National Guard.

“Without proper training, soldiers can’t do their jobs,” Austin said. “We have to commit time, talents and resources to mold ourselves, first, to become outstanding instructors. Once we do that, we can then teach and train students to become fully capable and ready soldiers in their specific military occupational specialties and additional skill identifiers.”

Austin emphasized that instructors are vital to the 80th TC’s mission in developing trained, ready, and capable Soldiers because they generate readiness for the entire Army.

“We have roughly 4,000 instructors throughout our command,” said Austin. “Our instructors are critical in developing Soldiers' military training and leadership skills. We have a lot of great instructors, and we hold this competition to find out who is the cream of the crop.”

Once these instructors make it to the 80th level, they sharpen and refine their techniques for the two-day event. Staff Sgt. Megan Burgess, an instructor with the Regional Training Site Maintenance-Fort Hood, 94th Training Division, explained that competing in the event was an experience like no other.

“To be able to make it to this level at the 80th and compete among my peers is a major accomplishment for me,” said Burgess, who teaches wheeled vehicle mechanic courses.

Serving as an instructor for little more than a year, Burgess feels that she still has a lot of room to grow in her profession.

“I’m still learning how to develop my own style, and a lot of this is by observing other instructors’ styles,” said Burgess. “I could watch the same person’s style, but I’d rather watch 20 different styles of teaching. I think that’s really beneficial for me.”

Burgess added that teaching in front of a board of senior enlisted leaders was a bit nerve wracking.

“Being in front of these command sergeants major got me out of my element,” said Burgess. “I was nervous at first, but competing here made me more adaptable and better able to handle different stressors. I’m so glad I did this.”

One of the competitors, Sgt. 1st Class John Martin, an instructor with the 102nd Training Division, said that he benefited from competing in this year’s event.

“This was a great experience for me,” said Martin. “This competition was an opportunity for me to meet other instructors. I’ve picked up some different skills and practices from them, and hopefully they learned some good techniques from me, as well. I’ll definitely take what I’ve learned here back to my unit, so that we can improve our classroom training.”

This year’s NCO winner explained why being an instructor is important to him.

“I feel that my job as an instructor is vitally important, because students come to us looking for good quality instruction,” Jacobson said. “The end result of my work is producing soldiers who do their job well. It’s an honor to be an Army Reserve instructor.”