By Megan Locke Simpson, Courier staff May 24, 2013
FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. -- When it comes to courts-martial, it's not only 101st Airborne Division Staff Judge Advocate who puts in long hours at Fort Campbell.
Court reporters are responsible for tasks ranging from performing legal research to recording court proceedings and preparing documents -- all vital tasks when it comes to courts-martial.
For Staff Sgt. Ana Hairston, the senior court reporter assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 101st Airborne Division, it is all in a day's work. For her dedication to the U.S. Army, Hairston recently received notice she will be the sole rrecipient of the 2013 Sgt. Eric L. Coggins Award for Excellence.
"I was shocked; I was surprised," Hairston said upon first hearing of the recognition. "… It's not something that I ever expected to even be nominated for, so I don't think it's fully sunk in yet. It's kind of overwhelming."
The award recognizes active duty and Reserve paralegal specialists or noncommissioned officers "whose superior legal skills and Soldier virtues best emulate" the award's namesake, according to an Office of the Judge Advocate General memorandum. Coggins, who began his Army career at Fort Bragg, N.C., advanced quickly to become the Noncommissioned Officer in Charge at his legal office, and even served as a machine gunner and a tank gunner while in Kuwait. The enlisted Soldier died at 23 after being diagnosed with liver cancer.
Hairston's coworker, civilian court reporter Kim Rodriguez, said she's known the Soldier she calls both selfless and humble for many years. It is because of these exemplary traits that she helped nominate Hairston for the award this year.
"I've known her since she was just a young private," she explained. "… She embodies what I believe the creed of the noncommissioned officer is truly about. To get nominated for the Coggins Award, you have to be willing to go that extra mile to do everything that you can to help your Soldiers or any other Soldier who needs assistance or even looks like they need to have assistance. It doesn't necessarily have to be the Soldiers she works with on a daily basis. It can be anybody that needs help."
While Rodriguez said Hairston is "sought out for her knowledge" by Soldiers of all ranks, it is not just her professional prowess that makes her a cut above the rest.
"She also gives her time off-duty hours to and volunteers at the local Loaves and Fishes when she can," she said.
When Hairston sees a need, she seeks to meet it. Rodriguez said she helped coordinate office participation in the Youth Villages Holiday Heroes program in 2012, which helps provide Christmas gifts to needy children.
While Hairston fills her duty day by helping train the newest court reporter, reviewing work, transcribing courts-martial and helping paralegals from other units, she said she relishes the challenge and responsibility that comes with the position.
"I enjoy being an NCO," said Hairston, who enlisted shortly after graduating high school in 2001. "I like the interaction that I have with the other Soldiers and being able to see … the quality of the paralegals from other units, because I get a view of everybody. So I think that's the best part, being able to interact with everybody else and work with them."
"I like the fact that it's a variety; it's not just an office job. We get to actually go out and be Soldiers … I like the fact that we are expected to still perform like every other Soldier."
Life does not stop for Hairston when she leaves the office, as she goes home to her three children: Victor, 9; Davion, 5; and Layla, 3. Her fellow Soldier husband, David, is currently stationed in Korea. Knowing she can balance her home life with a sometimes hectic work schedule can serve as an example to other Soldiers looking to advance in their respective fields, she explained.
"Soldiers get discouraged and think, 'Oh I can't balance everything,' and the only thing that I would say is that it is possible," she said. "It always depends on how much you put into it and how much you're willing to put into it."
"We're supposed to take care of our Soldiers, and sometimes we just don't have personal time. I'm OK with that. It's doable. It just depends on how much you're willing to give of yourself."
Hairston travels to The Judge Advocate General's Legal Center and School in Charlottesville, Va., next month, where she will be recognized formally during the Senior Paralegal NCO Management Course.