FORT KNOX, Ky. (Army News Service, Nov. 17, 2006) - Take two former infantrymen, both veterans of deployment, each with a bachelor's in criminal justice and demonstrated success as Soldiers. Put them on assignment in Recruiting Command and what might you come up with' Sgt. Derek Vasquez and Staff Sgt. Terry Spangler, the 2006 Army and Army Reserve Recruiters of the Year, respectively.

Each competed in a final board at the Annual Leaders Training Conference in October after winning boards at the battalion and brigade levels.

With only a year in recruiting, Spangler, originally from Wytheville, Va., said he thought he was going in as the underdog and was a little nervous.

"With the competitors I was up against, I was keeping my fingers crossed," he said.

The award for Spangler, of Talladega station in Montgomery Battalion, is just the latest in a distinguished list of recognitions and honors. He was an honor graduate in his basic training class and Soldier of the year for his battalion in 1995. He is awaiting an appearance before the USAREC Sgt. Audie Murphy Club board.

"I have always been self-motivating and always had the desire to be the very best in anything that I attempted," said Spangler.

He applies the same dedication to his work as a recruiter, taking care of his future Soldiers the same way a platoon sergeant takes care of his Soldiers.

"Even though in USAREC we do not have fire teams, squads or platoons, we still have future Soldiers who need to be taken care of," Spangler wrote in a letter to the recruiter of the year board. For example, he said he worked with 13 of his future Soldiers on promotions to E-2 and E-3.

Command Sgt. Maj. Cory Olson of Montgomery Battalion said Spangler is an "outstanding NCO." He is extremely proud of the battalion's "dynasty" of producing the past three Army Reserve recruiters of the year.

"I just know how important it is for them and what it can do for their careers," Olson said.

After five years on active duty, Spangler left the Army in 1998. He worked as a field training officer, SWAT team member and self-defense instructor for a local police department and earned his college degree. Then he and his wife had a son and came to a joint decision for him to return to the Army. He applied for a position as an Active Guard Reserve recruiter in 2005.

"I knew that I needed to do something better and more secure for not only my future, but my family's as well," he said. The Spanglers' second child was due Nov. 15.

His combination of experiences helps when talking to prospects, he said.

"I felt that I could relate to them very easily due to me being active duty first, then ETS, then civilian work," he said. "It has made my job easier when it comes to explaining the benefits of joining the Army first, versus starting out in civilian life."

Though Spangler and Vasquez have several career aspects in common, Vasquez has his own unique Army story. He came to USAREC through the Corporal Recruiting Program in February 2005. Now he's recruiting for Cheektowaga station in Syracuse Battalion, near his hometown of Buffalo, N.Y.

"Recruiting in your hometown provides you with the advantage of knowing the area and schools, knowing many people throughout the area who help to be centers of influence and other resources," Vasquez said. "Most of the students that I graduated with are now either in college or in the work force in the area. If they don't join themselves, then they remain as VIPs for referrals."

At 22, Vasquez is among those who enlisted following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. At that time, he said, he knew what he had to do.

"I joined the Army strictly to serve my country. I was a senior in high school when Sept. 11 happened," he said. "I wanted to be part of the fight on terrorism. The infantry was the job that I wanted, and it was the job that I was provided."

Soon after his assignment to the 101st Airborne Division, he deployed to Iraq and spent a year conducting combat operations. He earned the Combat Infantryman's Badge.

Vasquez, while working in his first year as a recruiter, has been attending college full time. He expected to finish his college degree in December.

"Balancing priorities is very challenging but manageable," he said. "Planning appropriate time to accomplish specific goals like homework, family time, exercise and normal work is very important."

He was also able to work in study time for the recruiter of the year board. His first experience before a board had been for his promotion to sergeant, in September 2005. Vasquez said he wasn't nervous before the USAREC board at ALTC because he felt like it was a bit of a long shot for him to win.

"I felt I was out of my league," he said. "I was the youngest, the lowest rank, the least experienced."

The board win provided him with a shot of confidence. So much so that in November he decided to convert his primary MOS to 79R. He said the experience showed him his options.

"I learned that I can make a difference," he said. "If I can accomplish that, then I can take over a station and take them across the finish line. I see recruiting in a different light now."

Both winners said they now have their eyes on another prize. And if their plans come through, the USAREC board could be seeing them again in a year or so, competing against each other for station commander of the year.