FORT LEE, Va. – It was the dream outcome for a Soldier “hell-bent on redemption.”
Staff Sgt. Clint Lewis is the Quartermaster School Instructor of the Year – a title he vied for last year but fell short of achieving. On Dec. 7, the 31-year-old culinary NCO once again walked across a Mullins Auditorium stage in Challen Hall to accept the yearned-for-trophy from Command Sgt. Maj. Tisa Scott, QM Corps CSM.
Proudly looking on and not a bit surprised by the accomplishment was Sgt. Maj. Norman Carey, Training Department SGM at the Joint Culinary Center of Excellence. He recalled the vow Lewis made after he watched someone else taste the sweetness of victory in 2020.
“He comes to me and says, ‘sergeant major, one year from now, I’m going to win first place,’” Carey recollected, “and one year later, he turns around and wins first place.”
Lewis competed against 10 other contestants from the various QM schoolhouses. Sgt. 1st Class Maureen Martin from the Petroleum and Water Department was runner-up. She is assigned to Romeo Company, 262nd QM Battalion.
Following the ceremony – seemingly days and miles in time and distance from the announcement of his name as the winner – a relieved Lewis was in a state of retrospection.
“Last year was a total shellshock,” said the Bravo Company, 266th QM Bn. Soldier. “This year, when you thought it might be a little easier, it was a shellshock again. It also bought everything I did here to closure.”
Lewis departs in the coming months for Fort Stewart, Ga. His win was a finale of sorts – a going-away gift signaling it is time to seek out the next challenge.
“You came, you conquered,” he said with a sense of fulfillment. “Let’s go do better things.”
Lewis was better than his competitors in events such as the Army Combat Fitness Test; a Soldier board; a classroom evaluation; a 2-mile ruck march featuring various Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills along the way; and an evaluation board, which he felt was the most difficult hurdle in the competition.
Scott offered her perspective about the instructor showdown during remarks at the ceremony. Every Soldier who entered, she said, deserves special recognition because they dared to distinguish themselves by striving for excellence. The CSM also dispelled any notion that instructors are insignificant, sharing with the crowd their value and purpose in the Soldier development process.
“An instructor must have a desire to teach,” she told the audience. “They must be the subject matter expert of what they’re teaching. They must be resourceful and creative. They must be attentive to the trainees’ needs, and more importantly, they must possess a professional attitude.
“Many think being an instructor is an easy job,” she continued. “You occasionally here comments like, ‘the only thing they do is teach on the platform from 9 to 5.’ I am here today to tell you that this is a fallacy. … The instructors you see before you today represent the three ‘C’s’ of leadership – competence, commitment and character.”
Lewis and Martin demonstrated plenty of the “three C’s” not only with their performances, but with their work prior to the event. Martin continued to teach and lead on the platform after she was moved to an administrative position upon promotion, Scott shared. Lewis showed resilience by committing himself to the competition a second time, vowing to give it his all.
“I went at it harder than anything I did during my military career,” he acknowledged. “I was like, ‘It looks bad if you’re a second-timer and you don’t show that you’re a second-timer.’ It’s like going to the Super Bowl twice and not winning at least once.”
Lewis also said he was motivated by the addition of new family member.
“In that timeframe, I had another kid,” he said of his daughter Ryan. “Instead of two mouths to feed, it’s three. I need to try to gain all the accolades I can to show my kid that somebody from a diverse background can achieve as much as they want to.”
Lewis said his IOY experience has pushed him to further distinguish himself by opening up to future opportunities related to training and schooling.
“I want to do everything the military offers – all of the competitions, drill sergeant duty, etc. … I want to do it all,” he said.
For their accomplishments, Lewis and Martin received several congratulatory gifts from local organizations. Lewis is slated to compete in the Training and Doctrine Command version of the competition scheduled to take place in the coming weeks.