By Sgt. DJ BordenDecember 15, 2017
BAUMHOLDER, Germany - Enlisted Soldiers dream of the day they earn the title of non-commissioned officer and take on a greater leadership role. Those who make it to the status of NCO know about the demanding preparation and hard work it takes to be successful.
One junior Soldier on the journey to becoming an NCO, learned firsthand what it takes to reach the next level of leadership.
Spc. Malick Dia, a chemical, biological, radioactive, and nuclear specialist of Headquarters and Headquarters Company (HHC), 16th Special Troops Battalion, 16th Sustainment Brigade, learned about the challenges of career progression when he attended his first board.
"[The board] is a good opportunity for Soldiers like me to be educated and gain some experience," he said. "It calls out your leadership potential and how you handle stress."
Dia did not always envision himself as an American Soldier, let alone an NCO. He traveled to Palm Desert, California from his birthplace of Dakar, Senegal as a foreign exchange student to study computer science. While attending College of the Desert he was recruited and enlisted into the Army.
Dia would still be considered new to the Army to many, but he has not let his short time in service stop him from progressing. Baumholder was his first duty station since graduating from basic training and advanced individual training (AIT) in 2015, and he has worked hard to impress his leadership.
"He taught me things in the office when I first got here," said Sgt. Leeann Traufler, personnel actions center NCOIC of headquarters and headquarters company, 16th special troops battalion. "He knew his job. He'd stay late after hours. He's always there to help."
Traufler worked as Dia's sponsor for his first-ever board attendance. She, along with other members of their platoon, constantly quizzed Dia to ensure his readiness.
"Somehow he manages to do so much, while still practicing his religion," Traufler said.
Traufler remarked on how Dia has the ability to practice and devote himself to Islam without ever letting his religion stop him from performing.
"He's a morale booster," said Spc. Tayla Benjamin, personnel actions center clerk for HHC. "During Ramadan, he still performed well at [Physical Training] while he was fasting."
Dia attended his first company board to earn the title of "Soldier of the Month", Oct. 17. The company conducted a series of challenges for the competitors before the actual board took place. The competitors answered questions on weapons knowledge, conducted a physical fitness test in duty uniform, and completed a ruck march.
"I was nervous about stepping into something like this, because you never know what to expect," Dia said. "Then I realized the most important thing wasn't losing or winning, but just participating and showing that effort."
Later that day, it was time to change into the Army Service Uniform and go before the panel of the board. Upon entering the board he displayed the utmost confidence and readiness as he had been trained to do by Traufler and other leadership. He wore his bravest face and answered every question the members of the board threw at him with intensity.
Although Dia did not take the victory of the company board, members of the panel said how impressed they were with him. Traufler expressed her pride in Dia's performance and said she believed it would only help him more as he prepares for the upcoming promotion board and becoming an NCO.
"He's very eager to learn and to progress," Traufler said. "His work ethic will help Soldiers lean on him and have the same work ethic as him."
Dia did not let the outcome of the board get him down. He showed great resiliency and continued to set his sights on dominating the promotion board as well as continuing his career as a Soldier and leader.
"So far (the Army) has been a great experience," Dia said. "I've learned a lot and it's made me discover another side of me. I'm always trying to push myself to the limit, be a better person, be a good Soldier, and be an example for others."