Grafenwoehr, Germany (March 20, 2018) -- "I knew I was going to do something great here, I just didn't know what it was," said Sgt. 1st Class Brooke Barksdale, the first Senior Army Instructor Badge (SAIB) recipient in Europe and the most senior instructor at the 7th Army Noncommissioned Officer Academy (7th NCOA), in Grafenwoehr, Germany.

While the possibility of attaining the SAIB seemed unattainable to some, Barksdale's perseverance and drive proved that fallacy to be otherwise in Oct. 2017 when she was awarded the prestigious badge.

Soldiers assigned to an instructor position at a noncommissioned officer academy are eligible to be awarded an Army Instructor Badge. There are three status levels of badges and all three levels have different requirements outlined in Army Regulation 614-200.

"The badges are something that sets instructors apart from their peers because it's not easy to get," said Sgt. 1st Class Peter Crowley, a 7th NCOA senior small group leader (SGL) and Barksdale's former platoon sergeant. "So if you can get it and set the standard for some of these junior instructors, I think it's something to strive for."

The spunky, 5 foot 5 inch, Basic Leaders Course instructor didn't know anything about the SAIB until a year and a half into working at the academy when she noticed three badges hanging outside the quality assurance office, she said. She didn't know what they were, so she did some research and decided to challenge herself.

"The main reason why I wanted to do it was because no one here had ever done it and I wanted to be the first one to do it," said Barksdale.

Meeting the requirements wasn't a walk in the park for the mom of two and wife of a fellow instructor. In addition to having to complete 400 hours of instruction as a primary instructor and meeting evaluation requirements, she had to complete approximately 29 hours of self-paced online courses.

"Finding time to sit down and accomplish the online courses was the hardest part," said Barksdale. "I took the test about 10-15 times before passing, which meant that I had to retake the entire class in order to reach the test each time."

The loud and outspoken leader didn't give up because she knew if she had then other people in the academy wouldn't have tried to earn the badge either, she said. She also wanted to prove to everyone that even though she may be a bit hard and rough around the edges, she was a beast in the classroom.

"She works her butt off," said Crowley. "Whether she was in the senior position or when she was just a regular SGL, she was always pushing those around her to do better."

Barksdale met her hours of instruction, passed her evaluations with flying colors and was selected to attend the Senior Leaders Course (SLC) in Fort Lee. She saw this as an opportunity to meet the last requirement she needed to earn her SAIB, the four-day stateside resident course: Foundation Training Developer Course.

Most of the requirements to achieve the SAIB were within reach for Barksdale and her fellow 7th NCOA instructors. The one that wasn't was the Foundation Training Developer Course in Fort Lee, Virginia.

"A lot of instructors haven't tried to earn for the badge because the course is stateside and the academy most likely won't send instructors to the course for four days," said Barksdale. "It's just not cost effective."

"What I tell everybody here is that you have to do the legwork first," said Barksdale. "You have to do your rubrics, the online courses and everything that gives the academy justification that you have done all the requirements for them to send you to the course."

It wasn't hard for the 7th NCOA to grant the resourceful NCO's school request considering she had met all the requirements necessary to reach her goal. Determined to attend the course, Barksdale took 10 days of her own leave to make the timeline to attend the foundation course.

"That right there is the best instructor USAREUR has," said Sgt. 1st Class Alexis Rivera, a 7th NCOA instructor, as he pointed at Barksdale. "She went out of her way to take the opportunity and benefit from taking advantage of the fact that she went to SLC and then she did the follow on course. So on her behalf, she did everything that she could do because the academy wasn't just going to send her."

Now that Barksdale has earned her title as the academy's most senior instructor, she is the subject matter expert on evaluations, communicative writing and how classes should be taught. New cadre train with Barksdale as she is the example to follow.

"She's going to set the standard on how we are supposed to do everything," said Rivera.
Barksdale's advice to fellow and future instructors.

"If you want something bad enough, no matter how many roadblocks come in front of you, you have to learn how to weave through those barriers and look at the bigger picture," said Barksdale. "At the end of the day, if you want it, go get it."