FORT BENNING, Ga. -- Sgt. 1st Class Louis Ziacik, chief of instructors for the Henry Caro Noncommissioned Officers Academy, formally received the Master Army Instructor Badge at a ceremony here, becoming the 41st recipient across the Army and the first at Fort Benning.

The Master Army Instructor Badge (MAIB) is the final in a series of badges that Army instructors can achieve through the Faculty Development and Recognition Program.

For Ziacik, earning the badge has less to do with his personal achievement as an instructor than the achievement of the students he instructed.

"It symbolizes the hard work, dedication and professionalism of the students I've taught over the years while earning the badge," he said.

Instructors must earn the Basic Army Instructor Badge and Senior Army Instructor Badge before beginning to earn the MAIB. To earn the basic badge, the instructor must serve as a primary instructor for 80 hours. To earn the senior badge, the instructor must have served a minimum of 12 months after submitting the basic instructor packet and 200 more hours as a primary instructor. Becoming a master instructor requires a minimum of 24 months after submitting the senior instructor packet and 200 more hours as a primary instructor.

"Not only is it the instructing part, it's the development piece too," said Ziacik. "I go to develop and rewrite lesson plans based off of observations and the needs of the Army, on what we need to be training our future leaders.

"You have to evaluate other instructors and give them professional feedback and just be vested in the learning and education of the students," Ziacik continued. "Then you have to go before a board and test your knowledge on learning, learning domains, instructional methodologies, ways to present classes and your role and contribution to the Army's learning."

Both Ziacik's parents were in the Air Force, and joining the Army in 2006 for Ziacik was a matter of continuing a Family legacy of military service. His success as an instructor, he attributes to the mentorship he received early on in his career, something he hopes to pay forward.

"It was the leaders that I had early on in my career, especially the first three years of my career," he said. "They really pushed me to be better than I was. They saw a lot of potential in me. They continued to push me to go to schools, they pushed me to go to boards, they pushed me to become a sergeant. ... I wanted to make my Soldiers better than me and to see them rise through the ranks, become distinguished honor grads at schools."

Ziacik emphasizes that the badge is not an end in itself but rather a hallmark of organizational improvement.

"I would love for every instructor to strive to become a master instructor," he said. "It's not just a badge; it's not just teaching. It's the development of lesson plans, it's finding out new ways to reach higher levels of understanding."

To learn more about the Army instructor badge series, visit TRADOC Regulation 600-21, Faculty Development and Recognition Program, at https://adminpubs.tradoc.army.mil/regulations/TR600-21.pdf.