Fort McCoy News November 08, 2013

181st's Harris honored for educational leadership

BY CAPT. ANTON A. SWANSON
181st Infantry Brigade

Sgt. 1st Class Rodney Harris, an observer controller/trainer with the 181st Infantry Brigade's 1st, 310th Infantry Regiment, surpassed an elite group of his peers, senior noncommissioned officers (NCO), by being awarded the Strickland Educational Leadership Award (SELA) Oct. 21 at the Washington D.C. session of the Association of the U.S. Army annual meeting.

Photo for Harris article
Sgt. 1st Class Rodney Harris (center) displays the Larry Strickland Educational
Leadership Award. Also pictured with Harris at the Sergeant Major of the
Army Recognition Luncheon honoring Harris and other noncommissioned
officers were retired Command Sgt. Maj. Debra Strickland (second from left) and
Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond E. Chandler III (far right).
Contributed photo

The SELA is awarded annually to an NCO who exemplifies the Army's vision and mobilizes others in shaping future leaders while practicing excellent stewardship of the nation's most-precious assets.

Strickland, a victim of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the Pentagon, cared deeply about mentoring members of the enlisted force and believed, "if you educate the NCO you educate the Soldiers they lead."

"Knowledge is the baseline of everything we do, with your job, interactions with people," said Harris. "It doesn't just help you with your job, it helps you later in life. You always have to have a fallback plan, no matter what."

Harris joined the Army after receiving his bachelor's degree in pre-law (May 1999). Since joining the Army, he has served in demanding positions and participated in multiple deployments, to include Kosovo, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He also served in Germany.

During this time, Harris earned his master's degree in Forensic Science (May 2005) and a Ph.D. (doctorate) in Counselor Education and Supervision (November 2012), all while wearing the uniform.

The SELA is not only about attaining higher education. Additionally, this award recognizes Soldiers who encourage, support, and establish programs and procedures for Soldiers to succeed in various educational opportunities.

Harris has encouraged his Soldiers and peers to dedicate themselves to personal and professional development through continued education. While serving as a platoon sergeant in Afghanistan, he implemented a Platoon Education Incentive Program. This program encouraged and motivated his Soldiers to enroll and complete college courses as well as Army Correspondence (e-Learning) Courses. His persistent focus on self-development has resulted in many of his Soldiers and peers earning numerous college credits and degrees.

Harris said Soldiers tell him that they had no idea the Army offered so much in the way of free education.

"They tell me 'I'm glad you pushed that,'" he said. "I also made it a block in their counseling and make sure they are staying on the right path."

Since completing his doctorate, Harris has selflessly volunteered his time and services not only to Soldiers and various Army programs but to the larger community as well.

Specifically, Harris is a peer coach within his battalion; he was asked to serve as an examination proctor on Fort McCoy, and he has volunteered through the Fort McCoy Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, a local YMCA and other organizations in the community. He also has tutored several high school students in science and history.

Harris said he uses his own story as an example to encourage Soldiers to really focus on their own plan and plot a path that will help them for advancement in the military and when they leave the service.

"It helps them get promoted," said Harris. "It shows when their leaders look at them, that they have the initiative and the drive to excel and exceed the standard."

"Sergeant First Class Harris epitomizes the attributes we seek in our Army leaders, NCO, or Commissioned Officers. He strives to improve himself personally and professionally; he betters this team and he does this with professionalism and humility. Sergeant

First Class Harris is the quiet professional," said Lt. Col. Anthony Campbell, 1st, 310th Infantry Battalion commander.

(Swanson is the D Team, officer in charge, 1st, 310th Infantry Battalion of the 181st Infantry Brigade. Some information in this story is from American Forces Press Service.)

(See related story.)