3rd CAB Soldier proves herself to be tops in her field
October 14, 2011
HUNTER ARMY AIRFIELD, Ga. - For some people, losing is a discouragement -- but not for Staff Sgt. Yelixa Mawhorr. Last year, when the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Aviation Regiment, 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade Soldier didn't win Secretary of the Army Career Counselor of the Year, it motivated her; it motivated her to study for hours every night, to read regulation after regulation and to be the best career counselor she could be.
That hard work was rewarded. In early September, Staff Sgt. Mawhorr was named Third Infantry Division Career Counselor of the Year, which put her in contention for the Forces Command title.
After two days of competition, including an Army Physical Fitness Test, a written examination and a traditional board appearance, she was named the FORSCOM Career Counselor of the Year, Sept. 21.
This is her second round of boards and awards -- last year, while deployed with the 3rd CAB in Afghanistan, Staff Sgt. Mawhorr was named Regional Command East Career Counselor of the year, which qualified her for the Army-level board; yet, she remains humble.
"I don't think there's anything special about me; I just don't settle," she said. "I honestly didn't think I would win FORSCOM, not one bit. All of the Soldiers that competed, they were high-speed, squared away, more time in the field than me, so when they said my name, I still didn't believe it."
But there is no question where her strength lies -- in her work ethic.
"I just study, study, study," she said. "I read regulation, I'm always trying to stay current with new policy messages and just the actual day-to-day, working with Soldiers, because every day you're going to have different Soldiers come in with different scenarios, different type of situations; that helps me for the actual board and questions."
The next step is where she left off last year -- the Secretary of the Army board, which will take place in January.
Despite the accolades, Staff Sgt. Mawhorr has only been in the field for about two years. Prior to that, she was a power generation equipment repairer.
A native of Crowne Heights, Brooklyn, N.Y., Staff Sgt. Mawhorr, 29, joined the Army after 9-11.
"When Sept. 11  happened, being from New York City, I was thinking 'how could they do this, and what can I do?'" she said. "Even a few weeks later, you could still smell the smoke in the air… it was very traumatic for myself and most people from that area, and I knew what I had to do."
She found a recruiter while at her job at the mall and on Nov. 13, 2001, she was off to basic training.
Shortly after, the then-Pfc. Yelixa Matos, whose mother is from Puerto Rico, met a Soldier who would change her life.
The first Soldier she met at Fort Hood, Texas, was a young Soldier named Jason Mawhorr, who worked in the training room in-processing Soldiers.
The two married a year later and now have two daughters, Keila, 8, and Kiriana, 5, and live in Pooler. Sergeant First Class Jason Mawhorr is currently the S2 noncommissioned officer in charge, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd CAB. And the two believe that they push each other to be better Soldiers. When they were in Afghanistan from 2009-2010, it was Staff Sgt. Mawhorr who pushed her husband to apply for the Sergeant Audie Murphy Club.
"She pushed me for about three years to apply [to the Sergeant Audie Murphy Club]," Sgt. 1st Class Mawhorr said about his wife. "While we were in Afghanistan, she was on me the whole time -- I was tired, not wanting to study, but she kept encouraging me and, because of her, I studied for three months and it paid off. Her pressure and always pushing me to commit myself worked out and I was inducted.
"That's the good thing about being married to another Soldier -- you push each other," he said.
And though Staff Sgt. Mawhorr was surprised when she won the FORSCOM career counselor of the year board, her husband was not.
"Last year she went to the board and she lost by a few points and was upset about it, and said that she was going to go to the board next year and win it," Sgt. 1st Class Mawhorr said. "So I expected her to win, it was something that I already had faith that she was going to do."
Her fellow career counselors with 3rd CAB also believe in her.
"She's very gifted, very talented, smart and has a strong desire to help Soldiers," said Staff Sgt. Bartlett, career counselor for 4th Battalion, 3rd Aviation Regiment, 3rd CAB. "She was very driven, very studious and she's not afraid to ask questions … she has the strong desire to assist Soldiers with their careers -- I think that definitely puts her above her peers."
Besides at boards, Staff Sgt. Mawhorr has proven herself to be a great career counselor in her day-to-day actions with her Soldiers.
"Having this position, being the battalion career counselor, I can coach, teach and mentor Soldiers throughout the battalion; every Soldier that comes to my door, I try to give them something that can help them in their career or in their life," Staff Sgt. Mawhorr said.
As a mother, a wife, a Soldier and a career counselor, Staff Sgt. Mawhorr has proven herself to be the cream of the crop; and whether or not she wins the Secretary of the Army board this coming year, according to her peers, there is little doubt that she will achieve much in her personal and professional life.
"I've known her for five years and I believe she would be good at any job in the Army," said Staff Sgt. Bartlett. "She just has that desire to excel; she continues to mature, she continues to learn more things and become more understanding of the Army, so from a professional standpoint, I'd say the sky's the limit."