By Staff Sgt. Paula K. Taylor (NETCOM)February 11, 2009
FORT HUACHUCA, Ariz. (Feb. 11, 2009) - Walking into the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, Network Enterprise Technology Command/9th Signal Command (Army) Orderly Room, it's not uncommon to hear the first sergeant call out her name, looking for answers. Noncommissioned officers and junior Soldiers enter the room and their eyes naturally gravitate in the direction of her workspace. Rarely is there a time when someone goes straight to anyone but her. She's the first stop most people make when they have questions about policy, their personnel paperwork, Army regulations, or unit procedures. It doesn't take long for new Soldiers to realize she's the go-to person when they need help with their personnel records or paperwork.
Her name is Staff Sgt. Joanna Yanz. She's the personnel services NCO-in-charge, HHC, NETCOM/9th SC (A). Originally born outside the U.S., Yanz moved to this country in 1992 and eventually settled in Louisville, Ky., the place where she now calls home. She joined the Army at 17 and has been on active duty for almost five years.
"I joined the Army to serve my country," Yanz said. "I was born in Manila, Philippines, and I remember the disadvantages of living there. Coming to the United States has opened my eyes and taught me to be grateful for what I have, and what this country can offer to each and every individual that takes advantages of those opportunities."
For Yanz, one of those advantages is as simple as the right to success. A hard-charger with a won't-quit attitude, she has learned to take bits and pieces of what she has learned from others and combine it with her own knowledge. This, she says, is what drives her to compete for titles; most recently, the Fort Huachuca NCO of the Year.
"Prior to NETCOM, I came from the 2nd Infantry Division and the 10th Mountain Division and I have taken something from every leader I have ever had," Yanz admitted. "However, the NCOs that impacted my career the most, early-on, were two NCO's from 10th Mountain Division: Sgt. Major Kenneth Rush and Sgt. 1st Class Janeen Simmons. I am and will always be grateful for the mentorship and examples they set for me--examples that drive me to be the best leader I can be.
"I wanted to compete in the NCO of the Year competition to set an example for my Soldiers by setting myself apart from my peers. I lead from the front and then I push for them to compete and strive for the best as well. My Soldiers tell me that I inspire them because it gives them someone realistic to look up to and realize that winning is attainable. I am honored they tell me that; and the experiences and knowledge they have taught me have given me the motivation to win."
One of those Soldiers is Spc. Shawncey Gutierrez, who is proud to admit she has learned a lot from her sergeant.
"When Staff Sgt. Yanz was announced the winner, I wasn't really surprised," Gutierrez bragged. "I knew she would win because it was an event that was inevitable. What went through my mind was, I wish I was like her and I hope one day I make others as proud as she has made this unit. I am working with the winner - I am working with the best - and she will always be the best leader in all aspects of her life. I have had the privilege of working with Staff Sgt. Yanz in my almost two years working here at NETCOM. I have worked with her as she was a specialist, then as a sergeant, and now as a staff sergeant.
"My knowledge as being a [human resources specialist] grows everyday because, everyday, Staff Sgt. Yanz has something new to teach us; she has little tricks and shortcuts that are useful tools in order for us to provide the best customer service to the Soldiers. She teaches us by example and then watches us as we put her example into action. She puts training wheels on our work skills and watches us as we advance in our knowledge"
To set the standard and lead from the front, Yanz said she uses the NCO Creed to guide her and believes it is more than just words on paper.
"Leaders should take the Creed of the Noncommissioned Officer to heart, live by it and truly believe it," Yanz said. "This is the first step to becoming a great leader and impacting our Soldiers. We should all remember that they look to their leaders to set the example, and most of all, we should remind them that we learn from them as well."
In addition to the Creed, Yanz believes NCOs should never stop teaching their troops - it's an on-going process that never ends.
"I train them on a daily basis as well as our mandatory sergeant's time training," she said. "The best thing that we as leaders can do is to conduct training day-to-day, ensuring our Soldiers are learning something new every day. I instill in all of my Soldiers that we need to be committed to life-long learning. It is important to guide and lead them to ensure that everything our Army was founded on remains intact. Each of them needs guidance and leadership to prepare them for combat, develop them into leaders, and prepare them for anything and everything the Army has to give them. I influence them by being an example. I want my Soldiers to see that it is possible to achieve high standards no matter what is going on in their life, where they came from, and what gender they are. I place the Army first, take my training seriously, set the example by exceeding the standard on the [Army Physical Fitness Test], attending the boards, and by being actively engaged in my civilian education."
Gutierrez, who is stockpiling her Soldier toolbox with things she has learned from Yanz, said that she hopes other people know her NCO is the best person that can ever walk into their lives. "She will teach you things you don't know and will provide you with useful tools to use in your personal and professional life. She is a great leader, a great NCO, a great co-worker, a great individual and a great friend. Everybody comes into our lives for a reason, and her reason is to give people encouragement and hope."
Yanz's best advice for Soldiers is to remember that no matter how hard their life may be, they can achieve anything as long as they put their mind to it and work hard for their goals. "I am a Soldier, a single mother, a college student and now, the Fort Huachuca NCO of the Year. Anything is possible with determination, faith and hard work."
Yanz was honored as the post NCO of the Year at the Fort Huachuca Awards Banquet, Feb. 6, at the Thunder Mountain Activity Center here.