FORT EUSTIS, Virginia - To win big, you can't do it alone. At least, that's how Maj. Jason Nagel described how he felt when he received the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command 2016 Instructor of the Year Award in the Army Reserve category at an awards ceremony held here Aug. 3, 2017.
Originally from Bismarck, North Dakota, Nagel is assigned to the 11th Battalion, 95th Regiment, 97th Training Brigade, 100th Training Division. He explained that his winning the TRADOC IOY Award reflects the team effort that earned him the title.
"I am honored and humbled being part of this ceremony with these other great instructors. It reminds me of all the people who have helped shape me as an Army Reserve instructor," said Nagel. "To me, this is really a team award through my fellow instructors and my leadership who have supported me to get to this point."
Immediately after the awards ceremony, a separate ceremony was held for Nagel in which he was promoted to lieutenant colonel. His wife, Mandi, and Lt. Col. Ricky Herron, 11th Battalion commander, pinned on his rank.
Nagel serves as a classroom instructor/facilitator, for National Guard and Army Reserve field grade officers, in phases one and two of the three-phase Command and General Staff Officers College. He helps bring out their ideas, their interpretations of different types of leadership and structure, and how they see where the Army is going.
"I think we, as Soldiers, are good at thinking at the tactical level," he said. "However, in these classes, I'm challenging my students to think at strategic and operational levels. I get them to think about the policies from our chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the president, and how these policies affect us at our level and the way ahead."
Nagel explained that the style of Army learning has changed over recent years. He said that, in the past, students were given information and talked to.
"They would be spoken to, as if we were spoon feeding them what we wanted them to know," he said. "It's very different now, because we (instructors) encourage them to become part of the conversation. I draw out their knowledge and experiences, so they are an integral part of their own learning. As an instructor/facilitator, being organized, knowing the material, and directing the conversations and learning are key."
The eight-month-long phase two of the CGSOC is the longest phase of training for the students. Having small teacher-to-student ratios, plus the course length, allows Nagel to build positive relationships with the Soldiers. Not all students learn in the same way, he explained, but that's one of the aspects he enjoys about his job. "It's not just them learning from me," he said. "I have found there's always a wealth of knowledge in every classroom. This (job) affords me great opportunities where I learn a lot from them, too."
In addition to his instructor/facilitator role, Nagel also serves as a mentor to his students in their military career progression. "I like to ask them, 'Where are you going to be in five or 10 years from now? Although things may change tomorrow, you still need to have a plan," he said.
On the civilian side, Nagel teaches geography at Bozeman High School in Bozeman, Montana, where he lives with his wife and three children. With more than 23 years in the Army, plus 11 years teaching geography, his passion for life-long learning is evident. "Everything I do is built on my learning philosophy, which is to build real and lasting connections with people on a personal level, and to affect positive change," he said.
Reflecting on her husband's passion for teaching, Mandi said that she is "super excited" about her husband receiving the TRADOC 2016 IOY Award. She said that he has always displayed a strong work ethic and brings a lot of energy to everything he puts his mind to. "Jason's personality and drive are contagious," she said. "He's just an amazing person to be around."
In the larger picture of the Army Reserve, Nagel recognizes that he is shaping future leaders. He believes that Army Reserve instructors are essential to the Reserve's mission to deploy capable, combat-ready, and lethal units and individual soldiers who are trained and equipped to meet the operational needs of the Army and the joint warfighting environment to win the Nation's wars.