FORT HUACHUCA, Ariz. --- Maj. Gen. A.C. Roper, commander 80th Training Command, cited Sgt. 1st Class Raymundo Soto's dedication, professionalism, and selfless service as he presented the Intelligence Analyst senior instructor with the 2014 U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command Reserve Instructor of the Year award during a ceremony here, May 12, 2015.
Impressed with Soto's accomplishment, Sgt. Maj. Jose Schneegans, operations sergeant major 321st Civil Affairs Brigade, San Antonio, Texas, remembers a time when then Spc. Soto was a different Soldier. He was sometimes late to Battle Assemblies, his uniform was less than 100 percent and he barely passed the Army Physical Fitness Test. Schneegans, who at the time was a staff sergeant, decided to have what he refers to as a pep talk with the young Soldier. Soto said it was a butt chewing.
"Take it for what it is, the message was well received," Schneegans said.
The one-way conversation was a turning point in Soto's career.
"It was me and a buddy…he (Schneegans) just laid into us," Soto said. "He…put me in line, and I remember him telling me, 'I'm not gonna give up on you.'"
Schneegans was the first of two mentors who helped mold Soto into the noncommissioned officer he is today.
The second is Sgt. Maj. Jeffrey Kennedy; the 2012 Reserve TRADOC Instructor of the Year, who won the award as a master sergeant and along with Soto is currently assigned to 6th Military Intelligence Battalion, 1st Brigade, 100th Training Division, 80th TC.
Kennedy's presence at the unit got Soto interested in the IOY competition, and before long, Kennedy began preparing him to compete.
"We kept practicing, and practicing and he kept molding me [until] I realized that this is something I wanted to do," said Soto, who went on to win the 80th TC and the United States Army Reserve Command IOY competitions before winning the TRADOC event.
"I gotta push even harder now to show my subordinates and my peers," Soto added. "To be an instructor, you gotta have a passion for it, you have to love it, because you have to make sure that every Soldier walks out of that room with something; I strive for that."
The married father of two, who in his civilian capacity works as a senior compliance officer with an international financial institution, spends up to two hours before each class trying to find ways to make his presentations interesting. He incorporates images or video clips designed to entice his audiences. He also tries to personalize his presentations.
"I try to relate the subject to myself, something that I've been through, something that's real world," Soto said. "I want it to be realistic, and I want it to be current."
While he credits Schneegans for turning his life around, Soto says Kennedy helped him understand the impact that instructors can make in Soldiers' lives.
"I've had a lot of officers and NCOs along the way but those two; I can honestly say have stood out and stood by me and helped me become the person that I am," Soto said.