By By Sara E. Martin, Army Flier Staff WriterDecember 20, 2012
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (December 20, 2012) -- Five Soldiers and two civilians from Fort Rucker were recognized as Academic Instructors and Instructor Pilots of the Year, and were presented with awards from representatives of several organizations during a ceremony Dec. 14 at the U.S. Army Aviation Museum.
Henry Spohrer, Fort Rucker instructor programs manager, who helped hand out plaques and awards during the ceremony, said he was impressed with the accomplishments of this year's recipients.
"We have excellent people here (on Fort Rucker)," he said. "Every instructor [here] I consider to be the best in the Army, but these instructors are the ones that are above the best."
Instructors are nominated by their supervisors but the system is based on points; the highest average of points out of three categories wins, according to Spohrer.
"The supervisors are looking for three things: do they know their job, do they have the confidence to teach it and do they have the skill to draw learning out of the student," he said. "They are looking for someone who really knows everything about their job as well as their confidence levels when they teach it. If they are glued to the podium, then that is a sign that they are not a good candidate. They are looking for someone who is walking around the students, engaging them."
This year's Academic Instructors of the Year were Capt. Ryan P. Welch, CW3 Craig J. Johnson, Sgt. 1st Class Brandon J. Kroviak and James W. Jones. The Instructor Pilots of the Year were CW4 Ryan J. Rothmeyer and Phillip J. Schmiesing. The Flight Instructor of the Year was W01 (former Staff Sgt.) Alexander J. Chambers.
Col. Douglas M. Gabram, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker deputy commander, thanked each recipient for their dedication in teaching future leaders and the Army's most precious resource as he gave out each certificate.
"Instructors are special and have everlasting effects on all of us. We all have that name and that face with a certain lesson that we will never forget," he said. "The high quality of training in the Aviation community is a direct result of the instructors we select to do this very demanding job. Those who hold the title of instructor have already proven themselves to be a cut above the rest."
The recipients come from all walks of life and from all of the corners of Aviation training.
Kroviak, an academic instructor with D Company, 2nd Battalion, 13th Aviation Regiment, 1st Aviation Brigade, Fort Huachuca, teaches an array of subjects and programs concerning the 15W unmanned aircraft system career field and has been an instructor for about two years.
"It is such a surprise and an honor, but I love what I do," he said, adding that he didn't know how he was going to get all of his eagles on the plane back to Arizona.
Joking aside, Kroviak said that he relishes the days when his students have the "ah ha" moment.
"I want to make sure they are grasping what I am telling them. It may take me using their personal experience or getting down on their level, but when they are able to start applying what is being presented to them and they fully understand -- that is a great feeling of accomplishment," he said.
Other recipients, like Chambers, who is now currently a flight school student himself, were proud because they knew the competition was fierce this year.
"I am very honored because I know so many other instructors that are worthy of receiving this award. I know the caliber of instructors that are out there and how knowledgeable all of them are, so to be recognized makes me feel humbled," he said.
Chambers reflected on what and how he taught his students and said that he himself respects his instructors even more now because he has been in their shoes.
"I can see it from both perspectives now. I can help with the practical applications better, but I always tried to integrate real flight methods of learning and knowledge into the training," he said. "We try to bring real-world experience into the doctrine."
Though he used to be an instructor, he said he doesn't think he has a leg up on other students.
"Going in, I thought I would have an advantage, but I have learned that I really don't. It's a different world, but being a platform instructor was good for me," he said.
The competition was close this year with the first ever tie, according to the narrator.
"We are proud of all of our instructors, but the ones who are being recognized today really stand out amongst their peers," he said. "These men so excellently executed the core mission with immense passion that they deserve to be recognized."