For CPT Curt Owens, serving in the Army Reserve is about just that: service.

"It's been rewarding because it's a way to serve the country, specifically during these times when we're relying so heavily on our Army. I love doing it," said Owens, who was named the Army Reserve Outstanding Junior Officer of the Year Feb. 1.

Owens joined the Reserve in 1992.

"I had gone to college for a year and needed a little more structured environment, so I enlisted," he said. "My grades didn't reflect someone who was ready to excel academically at the college level."

With plans for business already on the horizon, Owens chose the Reserve so he could pursue a civilian career. Now, he is a co-owner of a software firm that develops applications for law enforcement.

"The Reserve prides itself on being citizen-Soldiers, and that's kind of how I see myself, to serve when my country calls and then
return to my civilian business," he said.

His country has called him twice so far in his career - once to Iraq for a 15-month deployment and most recently to Fort Benning as a platoon mentor in A Company, 1st Battalion, 11th Infantry Regiment.

"I was excited about (this assignment)," Owens said. "I'm an Infantryman. I knew whatever assignment I had here would be challenging and rewarding."

After reporting to Basic Officer Leadership Course II eight months ago, Owen found the assignment lined up with his expectations.

"The mission here is vitally important. We're training and equipping today's front leaders to be successful on the battlefield," Owens said. "It's challenging because we have a wide range of backgrounds among our students. They come from different commissioning sources; they have different levels of experience and different military occupation specialties. The challenging part is to get them all up to a basic Soldier level. Lieutenants trained here will take over platoons out there fighting and winning these conflicts every day. So really, we're talking about providing these officers with survivability and lethality on the battlefield."

As a platoon mentor, Owens counsels and oversees training for the lieutenants in 4th Platoon, often in a "big brother" capacity, said Owens' company commander CPT Dennis Marshall.

"He teaches, coaches and mentors the lieutenants as they go through the seven-week leadership course here," he said. "He gives them a true measure of their leadership ability. He's someone for them to look up to and say, 'Hey, I want to be like him someday.'"

Marshall said he wasn't surprised when Owens was honored with the Major General Strom Thurmond Outstanding Army Junior Officer Award.

"I've known him since 2000," Marshall said. "We went to Infantry Officer Basic together, and it doesn't surprise me in the least that he won it. It's indicative of leadership traits he showed as a lieutenant in the Infantry Officer Basic Course. When he was in a leadership position, you knew he was in charge. Others don't always show those dynamics of leadership at that early stage in their career."

Owens leads by example, Marshall said. That's what it all comes down to.

"You have to have leaders who are willing to lead from the front," he said. "There are some tough choices being made out there, and your leadership - your moral and physical courage - is going to come into play in the decisions you make in theaters of war."

When not mobilized to serve overseas or on post, Owens also leads in his home community of Tallahassee, Fla. He has volunteered with his kids' schools, a scholarship foundation and local sports teams.

That's part of being a true citizen-Soldier, Owens said, making better communities and a better Army.

"When you talk about making a better Army, the Army Reserve and the National Guard have played a huge part in this war effort," he said. "My family and I have committed to serving as long as I can."