By Skip Vaughn, USAG RedstoneJune 25, 2010
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- It's an annual tradition that sponsoring organizations from throughout the local community present thousands of dollars in gifts to Redstone's Soldier and NCO of the Year.
That was the case again June 14 at the Officers and Civilians Club in the 2010 NCO and Soldier of the Year recognition luncheon, among the activities during Armed Forces Celebration Week.
This year's honorees are Staff Sgt. Francis Gingrich, the NCO of the Year, and Sgt. Fatih Aksu, the Soldier of the Year. Aksu had been promoted to sergeant since competing earlier for Soldier of the Quarter.
"This recognition of NCOs and Soldiers really gets to the heart and soul of our Army," said keynote speaker Maj. Gen. Jim Myles, commander of the Aviation and Missile Command and Redstone Arsenal. More than 200 people attended the luncheon.
Gingrich, 35, from Watkins Glen, N.Y., serves as a squad leader at HHC 59th. He is an instructor in the Integrated Family of Test Equipment division in the Missile Systems Electronics Training Department at the Ordnance Munitions and Electronics Maintenance School.
"It means a lot," Gingrich said of winning NCO of the Year. "Just the support that the community has (for the program). I've never seen it before anywhere that I've been. It's just amazing."
He has been in the Army six years and stationed at Redstone since December 2008. He and his wife, Amanda, reside in Madison with their daughter, Kaelyn, 3, and son, Connor, 6.
Aksu, 32, from Brandon, Fla., was born in Adana, Turkey. He arrived in the United States in 1996. Aksu is a radiology technician at Fox Army Health Center.
"It's a lot of hard work," he said of the Soldier of the Year competition and what it means to him. "Not only hard work but it's also support of my other NCOs. It means teamwork."
Aksu has been in the Army since September 2006 and arrived at Redstone in February 2008. He and his wife, Seda, reside on post with their daughter, Merve, 9, and son, Omer,7.