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NEWS | Feb. 17, 2016

Steel sharpens steel: US Army Reserve 2015 Instructors of the Year

By Brian Godette U.S. Army Reserve Command

FORT BRAGG, N.C. – It's been said that the finest weapon the U.S. military has are its Soldiers. To that point, without the tactful guidance of instructors, the U.S. military would arguably have no force to fight with.

Since 1989, the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command has recognized instructors throughout the Army for their critical job of developing Soldiers and as the U.S. Army Reserve continues to search for the best examples in the Army to put in front of promising leaders, this year marked the first year the U.S. Army Reserve Command hosted its very own competition to select the best instructor.

Winners from each category – officer, warrant officer, and noncommissioned officer – joined colleagues and guests at the USARC headquarters Feb. 11, 2016, for a ceremony in their honor where they were awarded for their selection as Instructor of the Year.

Capt. Edgar Borgella, assigned to the 83rd U.S. Army Reserve Readiness Training Center; Chief Warrant Officer 4 David Griffin, also with the 83rd USARRTC; and Sgt. 1st Class JaDrian A. Whitfield, with the 80th Training Command; won their respective categories and will represent the U.S. Army Reserve at the TRADOC competition.

“We're a very small population training a very large population,” said Master Sgt. Raymundo Soto, 2014 TRADOC and U.S. Army Reserve Instructor of the Year.

USARC G3/5/7 sergeant major, Sgt. Maj. Blaine Huston, acknowledged the importance instructors have on the military population as he provided remarks during the ceremony.

“Steel sharpens steel, and we wouldn't have an Army without you,” Huston said.

“It's a great honor. I feel very humbled by it,” Whitfield said. “It's an opportunity to provide encouragement for the people that will be coming next and competing.”

Whitfield took time to reflect on the significance being an instructor has on all Soldiers.

“Throughout any Soldier's career they are going to be going to different units, they're going to be seeing so many different people, and building different relationships, but I think some of the most important ones that we tend to remember are the people that taught us something important,” Whitfield said.

“As instructors it gives us the opportunity to be the person that gives them [Soldiers] some long lasting knowledge or guidance that will help them in their career and hopefully their lives,” Whitfield said.

Providing instruction, for Whitfield, is more than just a single facet of her motivation. The Citizen-Soldier embodies the full process of learning as she performs her civilian job as well.

“Working on the civilian side I help to facilitate training for Army intelligence units, so I'm kind of at the back end of it, able to see the product of what instructors are producing and the reflection of the training that takes place in the units,” Whitfield said. “That provides me additional motivation while I'm on the platform, in uniform, to make sure that Soldiers are ready to take that knowledge and perform well once they leave the schoolhouse.”

Soto, having experienced being in the seat of Instructor of the Year, and being a dual-hatted U.S. Army Reserve Soldier like Whitfield, and many of the Soldiers they teach, understood the relationship between their military job and civilian careers.

“I'm teaching several of my employees on my civilian side how to be an instructor, so when they get up and teach something they use the Army Learning Model,” Soto said. “I change the words around because they might not be able to understand certain acronyms, but for me the military side of being an instructor has really boosting the overall effect of my civilian career.

“It's an art to being an instructor,” Soto said. “You can't script your art of instructing, because your audience is going to make you change within a second how you're going to ask your next question, or move on to the next block of instruction.”

As Whitfield and Soto stood amongst their colleagues in the field of instructional training, the consensus that the Soldiers come first was a common theme.

“It's reassuring to know that we are making a positive influence on the Soldiers out there and giving them the tools so that they can be successful,” said Griffin, who is a chief instructor at the 83rd USARRTC.

Griffin honed in on what success in the field means to him.

“To get the interaction with the students, to try to draw out their experiences and build on that so they have something to relate to, is important,” Griffin said. “If other people are leading, maintaining, if they're doing good things, and if they're improving, that is my reward.”

That intangible reward may have been one of the reasons why Griffin and his colleagues made it this far as instructors of the year. The more tangible aspects began with scoring sheets.

“What separates a lot of instructors is the Army Learning Model,” Soto said. “Do you know the Army Learning Model and are you using the Army Learning Model?”

Prior to being selected as winners the instructors were graded by a panel of judges on their techniques via video, during an actual classroom instruction period.

“Whenever we start a briefing there's a motivator, and the motivator could be 'hey everybody, here's a joke,' and you caught everyone's attention,” Soto said.

“What the scoring sheet does is look at small things as a motivator and rates you one, two, three, four, five,” Soto said. “So to get to the levels that the instructors are here you'd have to have the highest score in that overall scoring sheet.”

The meticulous grading sheet measured things like eye contact, the number of times the instructor said “uh's,” mannerisms, job aides and how many times they looked at the slides.

The end of grading saw the top three candidates separated from the pack, and in line to be rewarded for their achievements.

“It's shocking and overwhelming because the intent was never to look for awards,” said Borgella, course director at the 83rd USARRTC. “It was just to do the best job you can do for the Soldier, doing the best job you can do, period.”

All the instructors agreed with Borgella on what the actual award was.

“Whenever I get a 'thank you' from the Soldier, that's my award right there,” Borgella said.

“This award, although I accept it, is a team award for me,” Borgella said. “My success is still based off my team, making sure I look good, sound good, and provide the best information possible, so I accept this achievement with my team, whether they are here or not.”

The tie-in to all the instructors at the ceremony and those they instruct was simple for Borgella – they are all Soldiers striving for a common goal of success, and the instructors are doing their part.

“For me its knowledge and experience, but it's also passion,” Borgella said. “I sat in your shoes, I know what its like to not have everything you need to be successful. My desire as a leader and an instructor is to give you everything you need to be successful.”

Whitfield, Griffin, and Borgella have proven to be successful and wished to push others to do the same.

“This is a program that should continue,” Whitfield said. “I think it helps others push to reach that same goal and in the process of doing that it will bring up the standard of instructors and provide better quality training to Soldiers.”

The USARC-hosted Instructor of the Year ceremony highlighted what right looks like in the U.S. Army Reserve and the U.S. Army and according to Huston, the instructors who won represent a force which trains the finest weapon in our military, our Soldiers.

The TRADOC Instructor of the Year winner is scheduled to be announced April, 8, 2016.