BOWLING GREEN, Virginia - Staff Sgt. Sarah Hawley, a paralegal noncommissioned officer with the U.S. Army Reserve Legal Command, is this year's recipient of the Sergeant Eric L. Coggins Award for Excellence.
It's the first time that a U.S. Army Reserve paralegal noncommissioned officer won the Army's top award for excellence in the legal profession.
The award has been presented every year since 1998.
Hawley's selection was announced April 19. Lt. Gen. Flora D. Darpino, the Judge Advocate General of the U.S. Army, and Command Sgt. Maj. Joseph P. Lister, the JAG Corps Regimental Command Sergeant Major called Hawley to personally congratulate her. When the call came in, Hawley's heart was pounding, she said.
"It's one of those moments that you think would never happen to you, but I will certainly remember it forever," Hawley said. "I was shocked, excited, humbled, honored, speechless."
She will receive the award May 16 during the Law for Paralegal and Advanced Law for Paralegal Course in Charlottesville, Virginia
"Staff Sgt. Hawley is well respected by her seniors, peers and subordinates," said Master Sgt. Joanne Sykes, who nominated Hawley for the award. "She possesses unquestionable integrity. Her professional knowledge and technical competence are truly outstanding."
Established in 1997, the annual award recognizes an enlisted paralegal who best embodies the standards for which Coggins was known. Coggins was a U.S. Army paralegal in Korea, who volunteered for Middle East duty. While still a specialist, Coggins served as the NCO in charge of the Camp Doha Legal Office in Kuwait. Afterward, Coggins died from liver cancer.
"This is an amazing achievement," said Brig. Gen. Mitchell R. Chitwood, Commander of the U.S. Army Reserve Legal Command. "We are fortunate to have an NCO as talented as Staff Sgt. Hawley on our team."
A Soldier in the JAG corps for 10 years, Hawley is a paralegal and court reporter. Qualified airborne and air assault, Hawley mobilized for four years including time with the 82nd Airborne Division and at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. She currently serves in the command's G7 section, where she is the NCOIC of the court reporter program and the airborne and air assault programs. Hawley is also the command's master fitness trainer. She was an integral part of the command's recent Best Warrior Competition at Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia and is the lead NCO in the command's upcoming field training at Fort Dix, New Jersey.
Hawley holds a Master's Degree in Biotechnology from The John Hopkins University and is now planning on attending medical school soon. Hawley has taken part in several humanitarian efforts including missionary work in Kenya and the Dominican Republic. She also mentors elementary school children in Washington D.C. inner city public schools. Hawley's inner drive motivates here to go above and beyond in every aspect of her life, she said.
"I'd like to leave the world a better place than it was before I was here," said Hawley, who's always had a passion for serving others. "This began when I was growing up participating in mission trips with my church, and (continued) when I joined the military to serve my country."
Headquartered in Gaithersburg, Maryland, about 25 miles northwest of Washington, D.C., USARLC oversees 1,800 personnel stationed in 104 cities in 43 states in the continental U.S. and two overseas locations. This includes Soldiers serving as judge advocates, warrant officers, paralegal noncommissioned officers, junior enlisted personnel, plus civilian para-professionals.
The Army Reserve provides approximately 87 percent of the Army's legal units and approximately 40 percent of the Army's attorneys. The command serves the legal needs of the Army Reserve Soldiers, families, and retirees. It also augments the active Army, backfilling units, working at installation legal offices and supporting forward deployed military missions.