FORT KNOX, Ky. - When Sgt. 1st Class Kevin J. Hiles lost in last year's Instructor of the Year competition, he vowed to contend again and make his unit proud by winning it the next time. Redemption was what Hiles was striving for. Winning it all is precisely what Hiles did when he earned the title of Noncommissioned Officer Instructor of the Year for this year's 80th Training Command IOY competition at Fort Knox, Ky., Oct. 23, 2016.

"This has been a long road coming," said Hiles, who was representing Regional Training Site -- Maintenance Devens. "I came here last year and didn't make it, so I redeemed myself this year by coming back and actually winning it, so it feels pretty good."

Hiles had some hefty competition as a total of 19 participants representing a number of units from throughout the 80th competed in this year's event, showing off their skills as teachers and vying for high honors. In addition to Hiles, Maj. Jason Nagel, of the 102nd Training Division, took home the top spot as Officer IOY. Mr. Maxwell Baumgartner was named Civilian IOY. Hiles and Nagel were awarded Army Achievement Medals for their outstanding efforts. Baumgartner earned the Commander's Award for Civilian Service. Maj. Gen. A. C. Roper, commanding general of the 80th, and Sgt. Maj. Jeffrey Darlington, command sergeant major of the 80th, oversaw the final ceremony and presented the awards.

During the Sunday morning concluding ceremony, Darlington commended the competitors for their commitment to excellence and their tireless efforts in promoting quality education and training, not only throughout the 80th, but all through the U.S. Army and around the world. Roper also hailed their great work and recognized them for going above and beyond their assigned tasks by giving up so much of their time to compete in this prestigious event. Roper pointed out that the assembled men and women were already doing extra work by balancing their successful civilian lives with their military responsibilities. Roper stressed that everyone involved were true winners, regardless of who took home top honors.

"This was extra on top of the extra," said Roper. "So you are the best of the best, and the fact that you're here shows that you're winners."

Although every competitor had reason to be proud of their achievements, Hiles managed to secure a victory for himself as the top NCO competitor. He reflected on the honor of being recognized for his hard work and dedication.

"It's a fantastic thing," Hiles said. "It's a great way to compete with the best in your field. You build esprit de corps. It's a great opportunity to network and see how other people do the same tasks that you do."

As the winner among officers, Nagel agreed, noting that his success in a competition among an elite group of participants gave him perspective.

"I'm honored, and I'm humbled," he said. "There are great competitors here. I've learned a lot."

Hiles credited his personal success to the outstanding leadership in his unit, especially the mentorship of his sergeant major. He hopes to continue growing as an instructor. Looking ahead to the future, Nagel also saw his win as an opportunity to better strengthen his own organization.

"It was great to represent my unit," said Nagel. "I can take lessons learned from here to go back and help other instructors become even better."

The competition tested not only technical instructional ability but also intangibles such as the ability to relate and relevance. The timeliness of topics and the importance to mission readiness were key components in evaluating instructors. Competitors put together their own unique classes, focusing on their areas of military expertise. They were judged based on a variety of factors, including their knowledge of the subject matter, communications skills, ability to engage with their students, and adherence to the standards of The Army School System. Judges evaluated the competitors' technical and tactical knowledge, appearance, and military bearing. The judges also checked for application of the Army Learning Model based on the U.S. Army Learning Concept in accordance with TRADOC Pamphlet 525-8-2.

The U.S. Army Learning Concept is the Army's visualization of how to train and educate soldiers and leaders in individual knowledge, skills, attributes, and abilities to execute full-spectrum operations in an era of persistent conflict.