Fort Knox, KY – Soldiers from all three division under the 80th Training Command competed in the 80th Training Command’s Fiscal Year 24 Instructor of the Year Competition (IOY) on October 25 – 28, 2023.
10 Soldiers from the 94th, 100th and the 102d Training Divisions, presented a 20–25-minute class to students in front of a panel of judges. The students also answered questions given by Command Sgts. Maj. during an appearance board, followed by an impromptu motivator which allowed soldiers to use creativity to bring the board members attention to a block of instruction they would teach in a classroom environment.
Lt. Col. Brian Wice of the 10th Battalion, 80th Training Regiment, Officer Education School, was the winner for the officer category. He said he was surprised when they announced he won. “Given the caliber of the other instructors that competed, I didn’t think that the winner would be me,” Wice said.
Lt. Col. Wice is willing to return next year for the IOY competition, but as a sponsor to a Soldier participating in the competition. Sponsor’s assist participants with studying, preparing their classes, board preparations, and they can assist during the impromptu motivator.
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Matthew Bielli from 4th Brigade of the 102d Training Division, credits his sponsor with assisting him to win the Warrant Officer category. Bielli’s sponsor was there to help him select a topic to teach in front of the board, and to assist him with studying and preparing for the appearance board.
Bielli joined the competition because he felt the challenge allowed him the opportunity to show what instructors are doing is important; that they can directly affect the force by training Soldiers to be the individuals that they would want to have their backs while deployed.
Sgt. 1st Class Gregory Heckenbach with the 2nd of 100th Military Police Battalion, under the 102d Training Division, was the winner of the Non-Commissioned Officer category. He first competed at the brigade level then moved forward to the division and finally won the 80th Training Command’s competition. He felt that being able to compete at the lowest level first helped him prepare for the high level of competitors that compete for the 80th Training Division’s top award.
Heckenbach felt that the competition was very nerve wrecking, but said, “You learn a lot , and it is a very rewarding experience.” Heckenbach stated that when you get to this level you are competing against the top instructors in the command which adds to the overall experience.
The winner for the civilian category was Mr. James Harden, a training instructor for the 83rd Army Reserve Readiness Training Center. He decided to compete in the IOY competition because the other civilian instructors he works with have previously competed at the command level.
He encourages other civilian instructors to compete. “It is doable. It’s competitive, but it is a form of collaboration.” The population of civilian instructors is small, so if more compete in the competition it allows them the opportunity to come together and build those connections.
“The Instructor of the Year Competition is 100 percent value added,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Bielli. “Yes, it’s hard work. Yes, you have to take time out of your day to study, but you gain so much knowledge and techniques from other instructors that makes coming to the competition worth it.”