FORWARD OPERATING BASE PROSPERITY, Iraq - When Command Sgt. Maj. Jim F. Lee, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division's top noncommissioned officer, and the other board members met last month, he and his panel were looking for a noncommissioned officer who exhibited in-depth knowledge, self confidence and professional attitude they felt an NCO should possess to represent the brigade as their best of the year.

Lee said the selection process was tough, but in the end, they decided to name Sgt. Brady Marcus of Company B, 2nd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 2nd BCT, who works in the Joint Node Network station as the night shift NCO in charge, as the brigades' NCO of the year.

"The noncommissioned officer of the year was selected upon his demonstrated performance." said Lee, a native of Jonsury, Vt. "He demonstrated a higher degree in general of military knowledge and professional demeanor."

Although earning the distinction of being Black Jack's best NCO was initially a "shock," Marcus, who claims all of the western part of the United States as home, admitted that he truly believed he earned it and that he is proud because it is something that gives credit to his platoon.

"I still don't believe it; I was shocked, but I actually feel like I deserve it," he said. "I like bringing it home to my platoon. We try to keep up a higher standard, and it's not only for me, but for my platoon - to show them that we are doing something right."

Marcus' platoon, who call themselves "Hellrazors," have won numerous Soldier and NCO of the month and quarter competitions throughout their battalion.

"We call ourselves Hellrazors because we raise hell and we are sharp as razors," he explained.

But getting to this point of being a strong NCO wasn't an easy journey.

He had spent his later teen years and early 20's doing many different jobs ranging from customer service to landscaping.

Marcus enlisted into the Army in August 2001 as a multi-channel transmission systems operator/maintainer to eventually achieve a better way of life.

Marcus spent his first duty station in Camps Casey and Red Cloud in Korea before arriving to Fort Hood, Texas and to the 1st Cav. Div.

Upon his arrival, Marcus found himself in trouble.

"It's been a tough road since I've been in the Army," Marcus said. "Of course, it was all self-inflicted, and I take full responsibility for my actions. I was young and stupid."

Standing before his battalion commander, Lt. Col. Kenneth Crawford, of San Antonio, he thought any chance of having a promising career was over, until he was given a "second chance."

"He let me keep my rank; he gave me a second chance," he recalled. "I was like, 'What does he see in me'' I knew then that I had to take advantage of this situation."

From that time on, Marcus said he started focusing on his professional progression; however, it was the time he spent while deployed to Iraq that he started to excel in almost everything he attempted.

When he was promoted to sergeant in March, he knew that that meant he had to lead by example.

"As soon as I put this on," he said pointing at the rank on his chest, "I knew that I had to set the standard ... lead from the front ... set the example ... and just do as well as I can."

So, when his battalion started a "Squad Competition," he and his squad distinguished themselves apart from the others in a number of different physical events and general military knowledge. With that, he started on his path to the promotion board and then to the NCO of the month, quarter and year boards.

Then, he started winning at the boards he was going to. He admits that he wasn't always perfect, yet instead, he was able to convoy his knowledge of many different subjects based upon his operational knowledge.

Even then, Marcus said going through the barrage of questions from Lee during the NCO of the year board was the toughest.

"The brigade NCO of the year board was the toughest," he said. "That was the one where thinking on your feet really helped. [Command] Sergeant Major Lee asked the toughest questions for the most part. OK, I made a few mistakes, and the truth is, I've missed about five or six questions at each board I went to. I'm just good on my feet. It's not all about memorizing stuff. I just know how to apply it.'

'It's like when I learned the NCO Creed. I didn't just memorize it," he said. "I believe that if everyone just lived by that creed - not just studied it like everyone else, but actually lived it, the Army would be a better place. My favorite line is, 'All Soldiers are entitled to outstanding leadership; I will provide that leadership.' I try to live by it."

Although Marcus said that he tries to live by that creed, for his Soldier, Spc. James Kendrick, of Indianapolis, his duties as an NCO are rather easy.

"He's the most self-motivating Soldier out here," he said about Kendrick. "He's made my job easier."

Marcus' former platoon sergeant, Sgt. 1st Class Curtis Smith, who works in the 2nd BSTB Operations, attributes the success of Soldiers like Kendrick to the example Marcus sets throughout his unit.

"One thing about Marcus as an NCO, he can be given a mission or team, with whoever or whatever, and he'll always do the best," Smith of Chicago said. "He's a natural leader. He'll always make the best out of a situation no matter how good or bad. It's not taught; it's something he's just had."