Stewart-Hunter\'s NCO of the Year
Sergeant Leah Paden displays an Army Commendation Medal certificate and a plaque recognizing her selection as Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield\'s NCO of the Year. She was recognized in a brief ceremony held at Club Stewart's Marne Room, April 21 by Command Sgt. Maj. David Sampleton, garrison command sergeant for Hunter and Command Sgt. Maj. James Ervin, garrison command sergeant major for Stewart.

<b> FORT STEWART, Ga. </B>-- When she went off to basic training five years ago, Sergeant Leah Paden said her friends had a pool, guessing how many weeks she could handle the physical and mental pressure of becoming a Soldier before quitting and going home. She now laughs at how she proved her friends wrong, especially since she was recently selected as the Noncommissioned Officer of the Year for U.S. Army Garrison, Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield.

"I guess you could say I have an 'I'll show you' attitude," explained the San Bernardino, Calif. native who just celebrated her 24th birthday. "If you tell me I'm not capable of doing something, you've just challenged me to prove you wrong."

Sergeant Paden said her career is filled with anecdotal evidence that supports that self-assessment. This military police officer has completed two combat tours in Iraq and an assignment at Fort Riley, Kan. She chuckles when she explains her airborne wings, earned through a side trip to the Airborne School at Fort Benning prior to her first tour in Iraq. She said her command sergeant major, Command Sgt. Maj. Kevin Nolan, 97th MP Battalion, would not let her drive for him unless she was airborne qualified.

When asked about how she prepared for NCO of the Month, Quarter and Year, she credits her leaders, past and present.

"I think the Army has already prepped me for these boards," Sgt. Paden said. "I mean, I've had some really fantastic leaders. The knowledge I sponged from them helped me through these boards. The only real problem I have during the board is forcing myself not to smile. I'm a very happy person and have to be careful that the board members don't think I'm not taking the board seriously."

Sergeant Paden said she is also grateful to her first sergeant, 1st Sgt. Terrence Hill, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, U.S. Army Garrison, for supporting her with a training program and allotting her time to prepare for the boards. Paden will appear before the Installation Management Command, Southeast Region's Soldier of the Year board at Fort Benning, Ga., May 18-22.

Even when she's relaxing, Sgt. Paden said she likes competitive outdoor activities like fishing or riding motorcycles with her husband.


She recently reenlisted, but said she's unsure if she's going to stay in the Army beyond this enlistment because she'd like to be a U.S. Marshal.

"I enjoy the Army though," she admits, second guessing herself about any career change. "I'd also like to be a drill instructor. I'm open to whatever God has in store for me."

Page last updated Thu April 30th, 2009 at 15:14