One of the critical pillars of mission readiness are the instructors who train our nation's service members to perform their military occupational specialty successfully. One instructor shined over fellow competitors during the 94th Training Division -- Force Sustainment Instructor of the Year Competition held here Aug. 15-17, 2019.
Sgt. 1st Class Raul Nieves, a Camuy, Puerto Rico native with the 5/80th Ordnance Battalion, 3rd Ordnance Brigade, 94th TD-FS, surpassed seven of his peers. His suicide prevention class conducted before a panel of judges, Army Physical Fitness Test score, and his performance on the written exam earned him top honors at the competition. Nieves, who is also a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning instructor, shared how he prepared for the two-day event.
"I prepared for the competition by ensuring that I took time to prep my suicide prevention lesson plan and having good slides to present to the judges during the competition," said the Soldier of 22 years. "I found the written exam to be the most challenging part of the competition. At times, I found myself deep in thought, trying to hone in on my training and knowledge to provide the best answer possible."
Nieves explained his thoughts about the competition's mystery event. The first-time event experience for Nieves brought him closer to his fellow instructors.
"We took part in an esprit de corps event which consisted of us navigating through an aid and litter obstacle course," said Nieves. "We worked together to carry the casualty on a gurney, maneuvering through the obstacle course to get the casualty to an ambulance rally point. It was a team-building event."
As the overall competition winner, Nieves was presented with a trophy, awarded the Army Commendation Medal, offered a slot to attend the Army Air Assault School, and automatically advanced to compete in the upcoming 80th Training Command IOY Competition at Fort Knox, Kentucky, Oct. 23-27, 2019.
"I am excited to advance to the next level of the competition along with the opportunity to attend air assault school," said Nieves. "I'm getting ready and will continue to prepare for future events. I've been teaching since I was a specialist; it's long been a passion of mine. I love what I do: instructing Soldiers."
With the 94th TD-FS making plans to host another IOY Competition next summer, Nieves is dedicated to returning to the competition next year to mentor future competitors.
Sgt. Maj. Stephen Haynes, 3rd Ordnance Brigade, chief of operations NCO, oversaw and helped with the coordination of the 94th IOY Competition. Haynes shared why he believes the competition is essential for the Soldiers.
"I think this competition is so valuable to our instructors because it allows them to highlight their craft of instructing," said Haynes. "We are a training division composed of instructors whose mission is to provide MOS readiness to multi-component Soldiers. We should be highlighting the best instructors, and those instructors should be teaching and mentoring new instructors."
Haynes explained what he believed were the most challenging parts of the competition. He also talked about the effort it takes to be a military instructor who is tasked with ensuring Soldiers are MOS trained and mission-ready to perform their skill set.
"I feel that the most challenging aspects of the competition for the Soldiers were the 20-minute time limit given for their block of instruction and trying to outthink themselves as far as what kind of class they were going to give instead of simply using resources and lesson plans they previously taught or were familiar with," said Haynes.
"It takes a lot of work to be an instructor, to prep blocks of instructions while remaining aligned with the mission for the Army Program for Individual Training," Haynes added.
Command Sgt. Maj. Brian Schlatter, 3rd Ordnance Brigade command sergeant major, attended the competition to support his unit's competitors. Schlatter shared how he felt about his Soldier having won the IOY Competition and how important it is to provide support for his Soldiers during these types of events.
"I think this speaks highly of the Soldiers in my brigade and what they can do at a division-level competition," said Schlatter. "Supporting my Soldiers is of the utmost importance to me. I try to lead from the front. I also do my best to be present to support them at various events. As a leader, I can never show enough support for Soldiers who are looking to excel."