By Brian MurphyJanuary 29, 2014
Staff Sgt. Charles Chicone, of the 902nd Military Intelligence Group, earned the distinct honor of the U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command's 2013 NCO of the Year.
Chicone, incident response team noncommissioned officer in charge, bested the competition during a weeklong event to earn the prestigious title, and those familiar with his body of work weren't surprised to see the 31-year-old rise to the top.
"The 902nd MI Group is fortunate to have Staff Sgt. Chicone as the model for other noncommissioned officers to emulate," said Col. Yvette C. Hopkins, commander, 902nd MI Group. "Staff Sgt. Chicone represents the professionalism of our enlisted force across the command and reinforces the fact that INSCOM has some of the best Soldiers in the entire Army."
Growing up, Chicone didn't plan on enlisting in the U.S. Army. He did, however, spend a good portion of his childhood in the Boy Scouts of America and thoroughly enjoyed camping, hiking and generally being outdoors.
"My family encouraged us to be outside as much as possible," he said. "They encouraged us to play sports and be active rather than sitting around on a couch all day."
While there are ample opportunities for personal growth and life lessons through the Boy Scouts, one area in particular truly hit home for Chicone.
"A big part of being in the Scouts was developing a local community project each year, so we would do things like build a playground for a local church and other stuff like that," he said. "I always enjoyed those projects."
Chicone's desire to give back to the local community also played a part when deciding the answer to the age-old question: 'What do I want to be when I grow up?'
"When I graduated from high school, my plan was to go into law enforcement," Chicone said. "After Sept. 11 though, my priorities shifted and I decided to go into the military."
Like so many other young men and women, Chicone felt compelled to do something for his country after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. While the idea of being a police officer still appealed to him, Chicone felt obligated to be there for his local community on a bigger scale.
"I come from a family that has had service members who fought in World War II through some of the more recent conflicts," he said. "While the sense of wanting to serve your country was there, it's about making a direct impact and saying, 'Hey, this is what was going on in the world at this time and this is how I did my part.'"
Serving in the Army might not have been Chicone's initial career path, but he's definitely made the most of his time in uniform. That's why his leadership at the 902nd MI Group was so quick to recommend him for the NCO of the Year competition.
"Staff Sgt. Chicone is, by far, one of the best NCOs I've ever had the pleasure of leading," said 1st Sgt. Deborah M. Patterson, first sergeant, Company A, 310th MI Battalion, 902nd MI Group. "He is very much a professional and an example setter. I have no doubt that he will go far in his career because he possesses the qualities needed to be a great NCO."
Patterson clearly wasn't alone in her assessment, which explains why Chicone was selected as the command's NCO of the Year.
"I was very surprised," Chicone said. "Not only at the INSCOM level, but at the unit level as well. I feel like everyone says the same thing when they win something like this, but I legitimately mean it when I say the competition was stiff and there were definitely some great NCOs that came out for these competitions."
While Chicone was honored to learn he was INSCOM's top NCO, he admits the fanfare that came with the recognition took some getting used to -- which is understandable, considering people in the intelligence world typically prefer to fly under the radar.
"Given the career field, it was hard to adjust compared to the way we typically operate," he said. "I found out I had won on a Friday and the following Monday everyone in the office was asking me why I didn't say anything about it.
"I didn't feel like it would be as big of a deal as it was," Chicone admitted.
Chicone quickly learned the rest of his unit felt differently about his accomplishment.
"Not only does he live the Army values, but he is the epitome of the 902nd MI Group's organizational values of leadership, innovation, teamwork and ownership," Hopkins said. "I am proud not only of Staff Sgt. Chicone's efforts, but the cadre of phenomenal NCOs who have served as his mentors, coaches and leadership as well."
Shortly after the announcement, Chicone once again felt an overwhelming desire to do something for others, so he agreed to mentor a junior NCO at the 902nd MI Group to help them prepare for next year's competition.
"My motivation came from wanting to repay everyone from my leadership down for everything they did to support me," Chicone said. "Having that level of support on a daily basis was great, so I was more than happy to do my part for another Soldier in the unit."
In the end, Chicone found a way to once again help others while simultaneously turning the spotlight onto someone else. Those who know him well can't think of a more fitting outcome.