FORT KNOX, Ky. -- For many years, various competitions among our nation's service men and women have gleaned the technical skills and talents that distinguish Soldiers from one another. One of the most vital elements to ensuring Soldier readiness is the instructors who are well versed in teaching military occupational specialties. For one instructor, his stellar performance earned him the title as the 80th Training Command Instructor of the Year for 2018.
Staff Sgt. William Jacobson is the small group leader instructor and combat medic advanced leader course coordinator for the 5th Health Services Brigade, 94th Training Division-Force Sustainment here. Jacobson outperformed 20 competitors to claim the title as the 2018 80th TC IOY.
For Jacobson, his journey for selection to take part in the four-day competition that was held Oct. 18-21, 2018, at the installation's Boudinot Hall came with challenges. The 5th Health Services Brigade schoolhouse commandant initially identified Jacobson to attend the previous year's competition, which he was eager to compete in but did not meet the requirements to do so.
"I wanted to compete, but I had not yet held the instructor qualification for the necessary six-month period. Therefore, I was not eligible to compete," said Jacobson. "When the 2018 competition came around, I was eligible. My battalion command held a board to identify potential competitors, and Staff Sgt. Paris Bledsoe and I were identified to compete."
For Jacobson, his comfort in speaking to groups of Soldiers and his keenness for the Army are a few reasons that enticed him to compete in the annual competition. His previous duty assignment also played a key factor in him wanting to earn the coveted 80th TC IOY title.
"I've never been uncomfortable speaking to groups, and I love the Army. My previous assignment as an Army Medical Department recruiter only developed this comfort level further. I wanted to compete in the competition because…I like being responsible for preparing Soldiers to perform their duties," said Jacobson. "Perhaps it's the NCO in me upholding the Charge of the Noncommissioned Officer or adhering to the Creed of the NCO, but I am committed to developing individual, small team, and job-related duty performance of Soldiers."
Jacobson said that being an instructor gives him the opportunity to aid Soldiers in being proficient in their MOS. Participating in the competition allowed him the chance to demonstrate his areas of expertise, as well as to take advantage of the opportunity to learn from his peers' techniques to refine his teaching style.
"When I wasn't actively engaged in the competition, I was busy discussing instructional techniques and processes with my fellow competitors and learning from them. There was a lot of camaraderie between the competitors, and it was a chance for all of us to network," said Jacobson.
For Jacobson, his preparation strategy for the competition mostly consisted of his normal routine used to prepare for a class.
"I developed my lesson plan and materials. Once this was completed, I triangulated my lesson plan with the PowerPoint presentation I used for a smooth delivery, followed by rehearsal," Jacobson said. "I generated materials for the classroom which needed to be present in accordance with United States Army Training and Doctrine Command policy…training schedule, daily risk assessment worksheets, administrative timelines, posted policy memorandums, visitor binders, et cetera."
During the competition, each competitor was required to prepare and conduct a class. A board of judges consisted of senior enlisted leaders who critiqued each competitor using a scorecard with a wide variety of specific tasks and skills the competitors had to accomplish. The judges tallied each competitors' scores and narrowed them down to three finalists, one person in each of the three categories: officer, enlisted, and Civilian. Once this was completed, each of the three finalists prepared a 20-minute video for submission to the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command IOY Competition.
The demands of the competition did not unsettle Jacobson's nerves while competing, due to his experience as an instructor and becoming familiar with teaching over the years.
"When I first became an instructor, I felt some nervousness about how a class would go. Being responsible for teaching all components - Regular Army, Army Reserve, and the National Guard - created some measure of anxiety about whether or not I would be good enough to instruct, or if my peers would value my input," said Jacobson. "Most students can see right through an ill-prepared instructor and destroy them on an After Action Review critique. I've overcome that concern early on, but now I am probably my own worst critic. My biggest concern now is whether or not I will meet the exact standards I place on myself."
At the same time he was competing, Jacobson also was taking an Emergency Medical Technician-Basic Recertification Course. He expressed feeling stressed while awaiting the results of the competition to be announced. When he heard he had won the competition, he said it was a bit of a surprise.
"There was another instructor with an elaborate setup to teach how to wire an electrical socket properly, and I thought for sure that he would win, so I was pleasantly surprised that I won the competition. I felt a good deal of pride. Who doesn't like being recognized as the head of the pack?" said Jacobson. "I felt pride in being recognized at such a level because it validated the work I put forth daily."
Sgt. Maj. Tania Brown-Berringer, 5th Health Services Brigade schoolhouse chief of operations sergeant major, explained why she selected Jacobson to participate in the IOY competition and how she helped him prepare for the event. She said Jacobson's motivation and dedication to excellence are a few aspects that set him apart from other Soldiers and his peers.
"Staff Sgt. Jacobson takes pride in his performance and all his areas of responsibility," said Brown-Berringer, "He's a subject matter expert who requires minimal guidance and extends his training influence outside the command to assist other units."
Brown-Berringer highlighted the key traits that made Jacobson her candidate choice to represent the brigade on such a high platform and expressed how pleased she was with the outcome of his hard work.
"Staff Sgt. Jacobson is a well-rounded instructor who maintains a constant state of preparation due to the time invested in research. His preparation regularly involves 10 or more hours of work to deliver a one-to-two-hour class, which incorporates mastery of the material, triangulation of the message, specific presentations, defined regulations, and relevant independent material," said Brown-Berringer.
"Staff Sgt. Jacobson delivers great results when aiding the proponents in course development and providing instructor mentorship to new instructors," Brown-Berringer said. "I am very proud of him. I am also thankful that his long hours and hard work resulted in such a great achievement."
Sgt. 1st Class Tramelle Gibson, 5th Health Services Brigade schoolhouse instructor, shared his thoughts about Jacobson as a Soldier, his work ethic, and what his competition win at such a high echelon means for their brigade.
"Staff Sgt. Jacobson's work ethic far exceeds the standards," said Gibson. "He never accepts a 'good job.' He strives to be great at delivering quality instruction, exactly what students and the Army deserve. I was excited about his achievement."
"Jacobson is also a team player who delivers effective instruction and ensures his teammates do the same. He consistently stays late to rehearse lessons and practical exercises with cadre to ensure the training is synchronized. The mission is the motive in his eyes. It was a huge moment for the 5th Brigade schoolhouse, and his win put the brigade on the map."
Command Sgt. Maj. Carlos Arrieta is the 5th Health Services Brigade command sergeant major who has served 15 years as a senior explosive ordnance disposal technician and is Jacobson's supervisor.
According to Arrieta, Jacobson always exhibits pride and dedication. Arrieta is honored that one of his combat medic professional military education instructors won at the training command level.
"The work ethic Staff Sgt. Jacobson brings to our schoolhouse is dedication, pride, and leadership. Those values are passed on to our students to become future Army Medical Department NCOs and leaders," said Arrieta. "Jacobson displayed that if you apply yourself, take pride in what you do, and stay focused, you can overcome any obstacle. This Soldier won an 80th TC level competition and is now heading to the TRADOC level, which is a huge accomplishment that demonstrates the outstanding and talented NCOs that we have in the Army Reserve."