By VINCE LITTLEMay 16, 2012
FORT BENNING, Ga. (May 16, 2012) -- A Fort Benning Soldier has been named the Army's top junior enlisted paralegal specialist.
Staff Sgt. Raymond Richardson Jr. of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, is the 2012 Sergeant Eric L. Coggins Award for Excellence recipient. He was honored Friday during a ceremony at the Office of the Staff Judge Advocate. Next month, Richardson will receive the award from Lt. Gen. Dana Chipman, the Judge Advocate General, at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.
"It really is an extremely significant achievement," said Col. Meg Foreman, staff judge advocate for the Maneuver Center of Excellence and Fort Benning. "This doesn't happen very often in a staff sergeant's life. The award is meant to recognize what right looks like. We're very proud to claim him as our own."
Officials said Richardson is the second Ranger Regiment troop to earn the Coggins Award, presented annually to the most outstanding paralegal in the entire JAG Corps. Maj. Gen. Walter Huffman, the Army's former JAG, established it in 1998.
Coggins was a paralegal in South Korea whose skills led to being selected as the noncommissioned officer in charge of the Camp Stanley legal office while still a specialist. He then volunteered for duty in Kuwait, where he became NCOIC of the Camp Doha legal agency. When Iraqi forces threatened the country, he also served as a machine gunner on the camp perimeter and gunner on the commander's tank
After Coggins died from liver cancer at age 23, the award was announced in his honor.
"It's very humbling," Richardson said after the ceremony. "I knew about this award since I was an E-4. I always thought it would be nice if I even got nominated for it. That would be an honor in itself because of who he was."
Only those in the ranks of specialist through staff sergeant who "demonstrate both exceptional Soldier and paralegal skills" are eligible to compete for the award, according to guidelines. Army Physical Fitness Test scores and superior character are among the other criteria.
MCoE and Fort Benning Command Sgt. Maj. Chris Hardy, who attended the ceremony, said U.S. Army Special Operations Command nominated Richardson.
"That speaks volumes about his performance and what he brings to the fight day in and day out," Hardy said. "And it's a tough job, with the high ops tempo and deployments in the Ranger Regiment. … He provides critical advice to commanders that normally a captain or major would offer up."
Foreman said Richardson operates with much less supervision than her NCOs at the OSJA.
"Only a natural, proactive leader gets put in that position," she said. "He's really on his own -- he has to figure it out and has to be right."
Richardson arrived at Fort Benning last year as the battalion paralegal and graduated from Ranger School in October.
He said he's "still trying to comprehend" the magnitude of winning the Coggins Award.
"You're a paralegal, but you're a Soldier first. I always try to set the example for others," he said. "I'm really not looking for any recognition. I'd be fine if they just gave me a pat on the back and said, 'Good job.'"