FORT HOOD, Texas - Since 1st Cavalry Division units started returning from their Iraq deployment, getting their newest noncommissioned officers through the many different career-enhancing schools became first priority.

With the influx of 1st Cav. Div. Soldiers enrolled in the Warrior Leader's Course, it was only natural that a vast majority of students on the Commandant's List were from the "First Team."

During WLC 09-10, all four of the highest course honors when to members of the 1st Cav.

What wasn't natural at all, and extremely rare, according to Sgt. Maj. Carrie Glover, the Noncommissioned Officer Academy's deputy commandant, is for any Soldier to not only earn the Distinguished Honor Graduate title, but also be chosen as the top leader of the course.

Yet, for Spc. Dylan Ryan, an infantryman assigned to Company A, 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cav. Div., his stellar performance during Fort Hood's WLC cycle was not unexpected at all for the Soldiers who have deployed and worked with him on a daily basis.

"It's not really surprising," said Sgt. Derek Smith, Ryan's team leader, of Clinton, Ill. "He's hard-nosed, and he's really intelligent."

Ryan, from Long Island, N.Y., distinguished himself early on by taking on the position as student first sergeant, and poised himself for the highest honors by achieving a 99.72 percent of all exams.

"He was outstanding as a student and very disciplined ... you can tell his parents raised him right," said Staff Sgt. Antwan Edwards, Ryan's NCOA instructor, from Killeen, Texas.

For Ryan, everything his instructor and the course threw at him was nothing more than a test of everything his unit has already prepared him for. Ryan is currently promotable, which means that he can be promoted to sergeant as soon as he meets all the requirements.

"I wouldn't say [WLC] was easy; I was just well prepared," Ryan said. "It was all the years of learning from my past squad leaders and my team leader that helped me here."

1st Sgt. Nelson Velazquez, boasts that Ryan is one of his best Soldiers. "Ryan will be an outstanding NCO," he said. "He leads by example, he is a good listener and mentor, and he loves to take care of Soldiers."

It was those same attributes that her WLC peers saw that led them to unanimously choose Ryan for their Leadership Award. Edwards said he was always helping out his fellow students and sharing knowledge others may not have known.

Ryan's passion for just about everything he does stem from events during his early childhood. In 2001, he recalled seeing the smoke from where the World Trade Center stood. From then on, he said he wanted to be an Army infantryman - nothing else. He said only in the infantry could he make a direct impact. So, he enlisted in March 2007, and within a year, he deployed to Iraq with his current unit.

"I can't see doing any other job in the Army," he said. "If I wanted to something else, then I can do it outside the Army. But the Army is the only place you can be an infantryman."

Although Ryan is still very young in his career, Valezquez said he plans to fast track Ryan through U.S. Army Airborne, U.S. Army Air Assault, and U.S. Army Ranger courses.

Ryan's professional plans are very close to those, although he plans on going through the Special Forces Assessment and Selection course once he returns from his next deployment.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16