USAG Stuttgart Soldier named Army's top NCO
November 16, 2010
STUTTGART, Germany -- Staff Sgt. Christopher McDougall doesn't draw attention to himself.
A desk sergeant at the U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart Provost Marshall's Office, McDougall has a calm demeanor and a focused personality.
Those traits - combined with a team of co-workers and a spouse dedicated to his training - helped McDougall make history at the Department of the Army's 2010 Best Warrior Competition, held Oct. 17-22 in Fort Lee, Va.
He surpassed 11 of the Army's best noncommissioned officers to earn the title of Army NCO of the Year, becoming the first Soldier from U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart not only to win the award, but to compete at that level.
"I just do my own thing - I stay by myself. I stay quiet," he said, during a recent family trip to the Galaxy Bowling Center on Panzer Kaserne with his wife, Lesley, and two children: Isabella, 2 (whom the McDougalls are seeking to adopt), and Landon, 1.
"I try not to stress out about things," he added, as Landon found a bag of pretzels in his mother's purse and spilled them on the floor. Unfazed, McDougall picked up his son (and the pretzels) and kept talking.
The family was spending some quality time together before McDougall begins attending a flurry of events as NCO of the Year (including a dinner with Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth O. Preston that evening).
McDougall and his wife showed a knack for teamwork, taking turns watching the children while interviewing for the newspaper, recording a television interview and getting congratulated by Command Sgt. Major Anthony M. Bryant, the garrison command sergeant major.
Then again, they did have considerable practice this year.
Lesley McDougall helped her husband prepare for the Army-level competition by quizzing him on the NCO creed and possible board exam questions when he came home from work.
"I made him print off all the Army study guide questions. Every night, we were going over questions," she said.
That was in addition to Christopher McDougall's demanding training schedule, which included evenings and weekends.
It was a challenging time for his family, especially since he and Lesley were just married in April 2009. "It's hard because it takes a lot of time away from them ... land nav in the backwoods, staying late at work," he said. "[After] the kids go the bed, I'd want to stay up and watch a movie together, [but I would] just pass out."
However, it was worthwhile, according to Lesley McDougall. "If you want to be happy, you have to make sacrifices," she said. "I want him to really push for things he wants to do."
His perseverance in training also sets an example for his children, she added.
"I want them to look up to him," she said. "Things will be hard later in life, but if they keep trying ... if they're persistent enough, they can get what they want, too."
Persistence was necessary for victory at this year's Best Warrior competition, which included tests on urban orienteering, detainee operations and casualty evaluation, in addition to traditional weapons qualification and physical fitness.
In one exercise, a firing range was rigged with pyrotechnic effects and even a sound track to distract the competitors. "The DoD set a range up wired with pop-up targets that had fireballs [attached]," Christopher McDougall said.
In addition, competitors represented every major command in the Army, including a couple of Army Rangers.
Nonetheless, McDougall kept his focus on the task at hand. "I don't usually worry about anybody," he said. "I just ... do my own thing."
While this no-nonsense quality is ideal for being a Soldier, there's more to Christopher McDougall than his combat abilities, his wife said.
"He's goal oriented, but he's also family oriented," she said. "He's focused on things he cares about."
That includes friends and fellow Soldiers, according to McDougall's best friend, Jerry Harper.
Harper, a former Army Soldier who deployed with McDougall to Iraq when they were both assigned to the 560th Military Police Company from December 2007 to March 2009, recalled a time when McDougall was leading a squad and took enemy fire.
"A couple of weeks after he became a squad leader, they were driving down the road, and an EFP [explosively-formed projectile] blew up the lead vehicle," Harper said. "Three Soldiers lost both legs. He just took control of the whole situation and did what he needed to do to take care of himself and his Soldiers."
McDougall also makes it his personal goal to master things he doesn't enjoy, Harper said, including board exams.
"If he [doesn't] know it, he'll learn it, then he'll be the best at it. He takes whatever you can throw at him and makes the best of the situation. There's nothing he can't do."
However, McDougall himself said that he couldn't accomplish all that he has in the last year without the support of his wife, friends and fellow Soldiers at work, who often took over his daily duties while he was training.
"I want to thank them," he said. He added that while he was honored to be named the 2010 Army NCO of the Year, it was a group effort.
"One person's standing there, [but] it's a teamwork event," he said.
And, he added, while there is only one trophy, it's only because "you can't talk them into making several, I guess."