FORT SILL, Okla. (Jan. 18, 2018) -- Three Soldiers and three Marines were recognized as the Fires Center of Excellence (FCoE) instructors, and curriculum developers of the year during a ceremony Jan. 11, at Snow Hall here.

The honorees were selected by a panel of field artillery (FA) and air defense artillery (ADA) educational administrators, senior leaders and subject matter experts, said Mike Simmons, program narrator. The panel not only looked at their skills as teachers, or curriculum writers, but also at their leadership attributes and values, as well as the mentorship roles they provided to their students.

Col. Todd Wasmund, FCoE and Fort Sill chief of staff, hosted the recognition on behalf of the commanding general.

"You'll notice that there is great representation by Marines among our award recipients," Wasmund said. "That's significant because we could not do our shared mission without both great instructors from the Army and the Marine Corps."

The Army's No. 1 priority is readiness and that can be extended to the Marine Corps, Wasmund said. "To achieve that, we have to have incredibly talented instructors to train our Soldiers and our leaders to send them out to the force and be competent."

Addressing the honorees, Wasmund said: "You have proven to be the best of the best." Academics is not an easy job to do.

As a recent commander, Wasmund said he saw the special value that former instructors bring to the force, and the fleet.

"They brought mastery of our doctrine, they brought mastery of our TTPs (tactics, training and procedures), and they helped us to train to a high level of readiness across the formation," he said.

Wasmund congratulated the winners, and presented each Soldier with an Army Commendation Medal, and each Marine with a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal. He also thanked the families of the honorees for their support of their service members.

Marine Capt. Stephen Waite teaches Marines, and Soldiers in the Marine Artillery Basic Officer Course, and Basic Officer Leader Course, respectively. The five-month training covers the M777 and Paladin 155mm howitzers, and 105mm howitzer.

Waite said he felt privileged to be recognized. "Somewhere along the line someone thought I did a good job."

The captain said the best part of teaching is when the students begin to grasp the whole concept of their job.

"I know that I am giving the force or the fleet a good product as far as commissioned officers who are capable of their duties. That is the end state," said Waite, who has been at the MARDET since July 2016. "I think that is what all of the instructors are here for."

Sgt. 1st Class Bobby Cruz, B Battery, 2nd Battalion, 6th ADA, is a senior instructor who teaches the Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) 14G Air Battle Management System Operator to Advanced Individual Training (AIT) Soldiers. He said the recognition was humbling.

"I came in every day dedicated and prepared," he said. "I think you have to be invested in your students, and for me that made the training a little more natural because I like being around Soldiers."

What's the most challenging part of teaching?

"Time," said Cruz. "We have a 16-week course, which may seem long, but we have a lot of things that we have to teach them in that amount of time."

The most rewarding part of the job is graduation day, where you see them succeed and move on to their careers, he said.

Cruz thanked his command and his wife and children.

I have a great chain of command, and my family who was very supportive," Cruz said. "We work some really long hours and without a good chain of command and my family, it wouldn't have been possible."

Staff Sgt. Anthony Hannasch is a senior instructor/course writer for the MOS 13J Fire Direction Specialist for AIT Soldiers. He said he was completely surprised being selected as instructor of the year.

"It's pretty amazing and being selected is a big honor," said Hannasch, who has been teaching for two years.

The best part of teaching is the lightbulb effect -- seeing the students' eyes illuminate, as the concept clicks in their head and they understand the material, he said.

Marine Staff Sgt. Eric Pulaski has been at the MARDET for 2.5 years as a cannoneer instructor Marine MOS 0811, for entry level and advanced artillery students.

Pulaski said he loves teaching
"I enjoy passing-on knowledge and making sure everyone understands what they're supposed to do," he said.

A typical day begins with physical training with the Marine students, then they go to chow and are in the classroom at 8 a.m. Instruction lasts until about 4 p.m. "It's Groundhog Day for five weeks," he said, referring to the duration of the course.

The curriculum developer competition began in 2014, to recognize those individuals who develop and write courses exemplifying the Army Learning Model (ALM) concepts in training, said Simmons.
ALM is student-centric, recognizing that people have different learning styles. It emphasizes engaging the students as opposed to didactic lectures, said Sgt. 1st Class Jason Blanco, FCoE Curriculum Developer of the Year.

Blanco, 3rd Battalion, 6th ADA, operations sergeant major, was recognized for the Troop Leading Procedures curriculum he developed for the Advanced Leader Course, for MOS 14T Patriot (missile) Launch Station Enhanced Operator/Maintainer.

The biggest challenge in developing curriculums is translating written words into execution of the lessons in the classroom using the ALM, Blanco said.

"When I was developing the curriculum I was really keen on hitting all the attributes of the Army Learning Model."

Blanco said he felt excited, grateful and appreciative of the recognition.

Marine Sgt. Jordan Gengler, Radar Course chief, developed a curriculum for the eight-week course, which is for privates and private first classes. He also teaches the course.

"I'm happy about being recognized for this award, but I think I speak for all the instructors here when I say it is not an individual effort, but it's a team effort."

The FCoE Soldiers will move on to the Training and Doctrine Command instructor of the year competition.

Editor's note: Additional information for this article was provided by 2nd Lt. Haily Bertin, 428th Field Artillery Brigade Unit Public Affairs Representative.