• Spc. Benjamin Weston, a Russian linguist with the 1st Military Intelligence Battalion, 66th Military Intelligence Brigade, is the Intelligence Command's Soldier of the Year.

    66th MI Soldiers are INSCOM's best

    Spc. Benjamin Weston, a Russian linguist with the 1st Military Intelligence Battalion, 66th Military Intelligence Brigade, is the Intelligence Command's Soldier of the Year.

  • Sgt. Matthew Varns (right) counsels Spc. John Hall at their 2nd Military Intelligence Battalion office on Wiesbaden Army Airfield. Varns is INCOM's NCO of the Year.

    66th MI Soldiers are INSCOM's best

    Sgt. Matthew Varns (right) counsels Spc. John Hall at their 2nd Military Intelligence Battalion office on Wiesbaden Army Airfield. Varns is INCOM's NCO of the Year.

WIESBADEN, Germany - For an information specialist it means committing to a job 24-7.
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For a Russian linguist it means wearing an American flag to work rather than a tie.
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But no matter the setting, the hours or the mission, being an Army Soldier means being a warrior first.
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In July 2010 the U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command grilled the best of its Soldiers in a grueling competition designed to test the most basic of soldiering skills.
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Two Soldiers representing the 66th Military Intelligence Brigade edged out the rest of the competition in two categories.
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Sgt. Matthew Varns, a 23-year-old noncommissioned officer in the 2nd Military Intelligence Battalion's S6 shop, earned the INSCOM NCO of the Year award.
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Spc. Benjamin Weston, a 29-year-old Russian linguist with the 1st Military Intelligence Battalion, earned the INSCOM Soldier of the Year award.
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Low crawling in 100-degree heat, competing in a combatives tournament and putting thoughts to paper, Varns and Weston said the event was exhausting. And each was surprised to have won.
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Sitting in their offices in Wiesbaden, Germany, they don't get too many opportunities to use their land navigation or combatives skills.
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But both admitted that no matter their jobs, being an Army Soldier means being a warrior, whether they fight with their hands or with their ears and computers. And the latter tools are proving to be essential in providing support for deployed troops.

NCO of the Year
A,A "I joined (the military) because I thought I'd enjoy it," said Varns, a Birmingham, Ala., native. "I didn't think I'd enjoy it this much."
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The INSCOM NCO of the Year joined the Army four years ago. In that time he has been recognized with Soldier of the Quarter with the 1st Cavalry Division in Fort Hood in 2008, competed in the Combat Lifesaver Competition in 2009, NCO of the Year for the 66th MI Bde. in 2010, Warrior Leaders Course distinguished honor graduate and tried out for the All-Army Basketball Team for which he had the honor of playing a few games with President Barack Obama.
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Being an NCO isn't easy, said Varns who has five Soldiers under him.
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"To me (being an NCO) means being able to lead people, mentor people. It's not just for military service either but for life outside the military as well," said Varns.
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"I try to give (my Soldiers) traits to mentor to help them not just in the military but for their lives after the military."
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As a 19-year-old private, Varns described himself as "hard headed."
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"I probably got smoked more than anyone else I knew," said the NCO.
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Today he uses that experience in relating to his own young Soldiers.
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"It's definitely a 24-7 job," he said of being an NCO.
Soldier of the Year
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Weston was looking to build a career off his Russian language skills when he discovered the military.
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"The Army gives me a good foundation," said the 2006 Brigham Young University graduate. With a bachelor's degree in Russian language, Weston wanted a real job using his skills.
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"It's not the most employable skill," Weston admitted. But with a fascination for Russian culture and language stemming from two years as a Christian missionary in the Ukraine, Weston said he couldn't think of anything else he wanted to do.
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"I had no idea what to expect when I came here," Weston said of his first duty station with the 66th MI BDE. "But it's exciting supporting the troops downrange."
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Weston's current mission doesn't require the use of his Russian language skills. But as he works toward becoming an NCO, Weston says he would like to work for the Defense Threat Reduction Agency - an agency responsible for inspections related to arms treaties.
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The military opened a whole range of possibilities, said Weston.
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The father of two said the Army provides him and his family with a significant level of security.
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"The Army definitely takes care of my family. We're not rich, but we're definitely taken care of," said Weston.
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Being a military intelligence Soldier
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Varns and Weston called the INSCOM competition a humbling experience. As they competed in tests of physical fitness, land navigation, writing skills, weapons and combatives, both realized the strengths of being an Army Soldier.
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Part of the 66th MI Bde. supports near real-time missions for deployed Soldiers such as operations in Afghanistan. And while Varns and Weston stay in their offices in Wiesbaden, their Soldiering skills are always important.
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Varns, who previously deployed with the 1st Cavalry Division to Iraq, said working in a military intelligence battalion is different.
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"Things are more sensitive," Varns noted.
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But the job is still the same.
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"I could probably get out and make twice as much (money), but look at what I can accomplish in the military," said Varns. "It's better than what you get outside the military as a civilian."
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For Weston, the military provides an opportunity to use his specialized skills, but also to develop new career skills.
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"I get to wear the flag to work instead of a tie," said Weston. "I'm not just sitting doing transcriptions in civilian clothes. I'm definitely a Soldier first. As a linguist, my ears are my weapons. It's really how I fight. I fight with my headphones. It's definitely powerful to be a Soldier linguist."
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Page last updated Mon December 27th, 2010 at 10:26