US soldier wins top NATO award | Item
SEMBACH, Germany — A U.S. soldier assigned to Spain’s NATO Rapid Deployment Corps in Valencia has been named the 2021 NATO Force Structure Top Soldier of the Year.
sergeant. 1st Class Aaron M. Welch, a G3 operations NCO from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, was selected to receive the award by a panel of judges based on his impact on his organization over the previous year .
Highlights of Welch’s impact include providing advice and mentorship while supporting the establishment of the first officially recognized sniper school in Spain, mentoring sniper teams from the Spanish Parachute Brigade and Special Operations School, and sharing information about his combat experiences in Afghanistan while in command of Allied Land Command. Senior Enlisted Leaders Conference.
“This is my first time working with a corps or even divisional staff, but I have worked with many multinational partners in the past to develop solutions through the [Security Force Assistance Brigade] or my times as a sniper, teaching and mentoring our partners in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Welch said.
Welch had a varied military career as a sniper with the 10th Mountain Division, an infantry platoon sergeant with the 101st Airborne Division, a senior drill instructor at Fort Jackson, SC, and a squad leader and first sergeant with the 1st assistance of the security forces. Squad. He was deployed five times to Iraq and Afghanistan.
“I think I’ve been lucky in my assignments and the kind of people and organizations I’ve worked with,” Welch said. “So when I came here, it was easy to reach out and help our partners in areas where I have some experience.”
Welch credits much of his recent success not only to his training and combat experiences, but also to a new Allied ground command program called NCO Empowerment Enabling Decisions, or NEEDs. The purpose of NEED is to encourage and enable NCOs to accomplish more for their commanders and fellow officers than what a traditional NATO staff uses its NCOs for.
“NEEDs was kind of my catalyst for doing all this extra work that I did,” Welch said. “I was trying to align myself with the program. I’ve read about it, worked with the LANDCOM CSEL and kind of raced with it.
U.S. Army Col. Jerzy Zubr, senior U.S. national representative to NATO’s Rapid Deployment Corps in Spain, said he was proud to have Welch in the unit and to serve as example to others.
Selection as the 2021 NATO Force Structure Top Soldier of the Year is “an achievement that underscores the high quality of our army’s NCOs and recognizes the professionalism, skills, experience and the high human quality of Sgt. 1st Class Welch,” said Zubr.
U.S. Army NATO Brigade Command Sgt. Maj. Bryan J. Valenzuela said he wasn’t surprised when he heard about Welch’s accomplishment because of the praise he’s heard over the past year.
“He is one of the reasons our NCO Corps is a shining example to our NATO partners of how important our role as NCOs is to the U.S. military, our soldiers, our officers and our families,” Valenzuela said.
Welch also credits his co-workers and unit leaders for ensuring he has the time and opportunity to help outside of his normal unit duties. He also said he looked forward to supporting Allied Land Command’s NEED program for a strong start in the coming year.
Welch’s advice to young NCOs looking to make a difference in their unit is “if you see something that needs to be done or might be a good idea, go for it. And don’t be afraid of being told no.
The U.S. Army NATO Brigade provides support to soldiers and their families to provide ready and resilient soldiers to the NATO alliance, maintain our joint and multinational partnerships, and strengthen the alliance. The Brigade is the U.S. Army’s support element for units at 81 locations in 22 countries.