JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON -- Army Staff Sgt. William Booth, 29, of the Army Medical Recruiting Station Kansas City, Kansas, did more than check the box while attending Senior Leader Course (SLC) here with fellow combat medics.
He went above and beyond, landing atop a class of 80-plus NCOs as the distinguished honor graduate.
"Obviously, only one person per class can say they are the distinguished honor grad," says Booth, a native of Portland, Oregon, who's been a health care recruiter for nearly a year. "So it feels good to, I guess, to be seen as, I wouldn't say above my peers, but I shined a little bit above that."
With a muscled build, chiseled chin and an easy smile framed by the slightest crescent dimples, Booth, could be leading-man material, yet he's noticeably uncomfortable directing the spotlight on himself. But as he rattles off a string of SLC achievements that include maxing the Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) and being nominated by his platoon to participate in a distinguished leadership competition, it's clear he's made a habit of being more than a background actor.
"I didn't end up winning the (distinguished leadership) award, but it was awesome just to be nominated by my platoon," says Booth, who speaks in a calm, assured way. He was one of only six Soldiers in the class chosen to compete.
And while he's hesitant to pat himself on the back, those who know the 10-year veteran can't say it's a surprise that he excelled during the four-week leadership course held July 25 - Aug. 23 at the Army Medical Department Center and School's NCO Academy here.
According to 1st. Sgt. Stephen Gardner, of Army Medical Recruiting Company Kansas City, Kansas, "Staff Sgt. Booth has done a remarkable job as a (health care) recruiter. He has transitioned easily into recruiting."
Gardner describes Booth as a "total package," who consistently scores above the maximum 300 on his APFT, is a hiking enthusiast, and volunteers in his community, assisting area hospice care partners and coaching basketball games at a local recreation center. As well as being proficient in both air assault and airborne operations, Booth's rucksack is bursting at the seams with a bevy of military training to include master fitness trainer, unit drug and alcohol prevention leader, and unit equal opportunity representative.
True to form, Booth says being named honor grad was never his goal. As he casually describes it, he simply gained momentum during the distance-learning phase after initially lagging behind. He says, once he sorted out how best to juggle school with his recruiting duties, he saw his GPA rise "and it just carried over into the (residence) course work here."
What also carried over were improved communication skills that he attributes to his recent recruiting experiences, which he believes encouraged his leadership growth.
"I think (recruiting) prepared me as far as being a little bit more outgoing," explained Booth, whose daily activities require him to connect with a wide spectrum of medical professionals, from seasoned surgeons to would-be medical students, while marketing Army medical career and education opportunities. "I'm a pretty shy guy, so I think having been in the recruiting world for almost a year now has kind of helped me get out of my box a little bit."
Even so, Booth goes out of his way to let it be known he's far from a "sergeant know-it-all." He says he learned just as much from other NCOs, particularly those with different military occupational specialties and others who had more familiarity working in garrison hospital settings. Booth, who was most recently assigned to the 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the vaunted 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, N.C., says he's gained most of his know-how in similar combat units.
He said those skills were tested during a challenging course-ending field exercise, where he believes he separated himself from the formation.
"I think the culminating event, we did a staff (field) exercise, was kind of an eye-opener for a lot of people who haven't really had any time working in the operational type of unit," explains Booth. "I had much more experience than a lot of them there, so I was able to contribute a lot, whereas some of them kind of sat back like, 'I don't know what's going on?'"
Booth now points to his SLC experiences as a time where he also realized some things about himself. He says, "I learned that I definitely have what it takes to be a senior noncommissioned officer in the Army."
Still, he believes other classmates may have been as equally deserving of the honor grad distinction. Booth, nonetheless, credits his leaders, both past and present with putting him on course to be a well-rounded Soldier, who is growing a bit more comfortable with the fact that he may be more than average.