By Maranda FlynnMay 29, 2014
Fort Huachuca has a new claim-to-fame to add to its list as it is now home of the 2013 U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command Noncommissioned Officer Instructor of the Year, Staff Sgt. Sony Merus.
Merus has been assigned to the Military Intelligence Noncommissioned Officer Academy, or NCOA, as an Intelligence Analyst Advance Leader Course, 35F ALC, instructor since June 2011.
His journey to being selected as the TRADOC NCO Instructor of the Year began in 2012 when he was not selected as the NCOA Instructor of the Month for February.
"I learned from my mistakes in that loss [and went on] to win the NCOA Instructor of the Month for April 2012 and NCOA Instructor of the Quarter, third quarter of 2012," Merus said.
Merus then won the United States Army Intelligence Center of Excellence Instructor of the Quarter, third quarter. In January 2013 he was recognized as the USAICoE Distinguished Instructor of the Year for 2012, which nominated him for TRADOC Instructor of the Year.
"Between January 2013 and January 2014, my focus was on coaching and mentoring the new instructors to the NCOA as I was assigned the lead for the NCOA Coaching and Mentoring Program," Merus explained. "I also served as a guest speaker for the Army Basic Instructor Course graduates here at Fort Huachuca on a few occasions in that same timeframe."
Upon return from Christmas vacation, Merus was encouraged to submit a packet for TRADOC IOY. He had just over three weeks to complete and submit his information. With assistance from his cadre, Merus was able to meet the tight deadline and submitted his packet on time.
"The packet for the TRADOC NCO Instructor of the Year consisted of three items," he explained. "The first item was a 20-minute video demonstrating my instructional abilities in the classroom. The second item was a one-page paper I drafted detailing my contributions and challenges I face as an instructor. The final item was a narrative outlining my contributions to my students and unit, authored by the NCOA training manager, Rebecca Oliver. Alex Burden, from Staff and Faculty Development Branch (SFDB) submitted my packet along with a nomination letter to TRADOC."
Merus' video covered various tenants of the Army Learning Method 2015, such as his ability to assess student understanding, establish a student centered learning environment, maintain continued student motivation, and lead his students to reach learning objectives, he added.
Three months later, while on a temporary duty assignment at Ft. Bliss, Texas, Merus received a phone call from Command Sgt. Maj. Bret Wiegmann, the NCOA commandant, informing him he had been selected.
"I was caught off guard because it had been three months since I sent in my competition packet and it was in the back of my mind," Merus said. "I was ecstatic nonetheless and immediately called my wife. She cried over the phone because she was so proud of me and she knew how hard I worked for this."
Merus claims his motivation to do his best stems from the students who come through the 35F ALC.
"I have a commitment to them to ensure they get the training and education they need to succeed as Intelligence NCOs," he said. "Not only that, but I learn as much from them as they learn from me. It is a mutual relationship that not only benefits the student and instructor, but the Army as a whole."
In addition to his students, Merus attributes his selection to his Family and his colleagues.
"My wife Saskia, and my son Eli, provided me unbridled support at every turn," Merus said.
"Since I came to the NCOA back in 2011, Rebecca Oliver and Mike Juarez have nurtured my instructional abilities to what it has become today," he added. "Sgt. 1st Class Ruba Jackson helped me with the competition the entire way. The SFDB team, including Beth Leeder and Alex Burden, has provided superior instructional courses that improve instructional competences across Fort Huachuca."
Today, Merus will be recognized, along with the other category winners, by the TRADOC commanding general, Gen. David Perkins, at Fort Eustis, Virginia. He is also scheduled to be recognized by USAICoE in December.
Reiterating the purpose for his success, Merus said, "I especially want to thank my students that I have had the privilege of instructing over the past three years. They are the reason I do what I do."