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NEWS | Sept. 27, 2013

Soldier of the Year shares confidence creed

By Airman 1st Class Austin Harvill 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Having a confident attitude can be the difference between a successful mission and unmotivated troops. Developing that confidence means showing a passion for leadership, upholding high standards and maintaining that standard through each and every challenge.

U.S. Army Sgt. Ryan Lewis, 689th Rapid Port Opening Element, 833rd Transportation Battalion movement noncommissioned officer, believes confidence is key to every aspect of work and life, and as the Army Materiel Command Soldier of the Year, that could be valuable advice.

Leading troops and successfully accomplishing the mission take a great deal of confidence on the part of the leader. Without confidence, leaders may appear lackluster or doubtful of themselves or, worse, of their troops. From a personal standpoint, a lack of confidence breeds doubt in an individual's abilities. Lewis believes even if people know they aren't great at every task, a confident attitude can make the difference.

"If you know you are good at something, you tend not to be as nervous when performing those tasks or missions," said Lewis. "What I feel a lot of people don't realize is how that confident attitude can influence your weak points as well."

Lewis had an experience only a month after he arrived at Fort Eustis three years ago. As a private, he had to take charge, regardless of his own feelings on his abilities, when a manning issue put him in a leadership position coordinating cargo movement.

"I had only a basic idea on what to do, but I stuck to my plan, told myself it was no big deal and led my team," said Lewis. "Because I had confidence in their abilities and they had confidence in mine, we accomplished the mission successfully with time to spare."

Lewis said taking advantage of similar opportunities throughout his career gave him the experience he needed to succeed and showed him he could become an exceptional leader. He also said he saw the impact of a confident leader, Sgt. 1st Class Tomekia Branch, 689th RPOE platoon sergeant.

"While everyone would give me kudos for my hard work, Sgt. Branch came in and said 'Spc. Lewis, I expect more out of you,'" said Lewis. "She knew what I, and the other Soldiers, could do and expected us to embrace our abilities in confidence and get the job done."

Lewis said when Branch had confidence in her troops, troops had confidence in themselves. The unit felt more confident, and that boosted morale while also increasing productivity.

From Branch's perspective, Lewis provided the motivation and authority to set higher standards for Branch, as well as the unit by encouraging other members to compete against him for the Soldier of the Year competition.

"Sgt. Lewis' ability to encourage others to do better is truly what makes him a great leader," said Branch. "When he was going up for the brigade-level Soldier of the Year award, he told me I should do it. Not only that, but he asked me to make a package because he had confidence in my abilities."

While Lewis and Branch may have learned a lot from one another, their impact was not constrained to their interactions. Spc. Carl Gahry, 689th RPOE movement specialist, the third member of the section, views Lewis as both a friend and a leader, and said he has seen the effects of Lewis' leadership through his actions.

"What makes Sgt. Lewis unique is his flexibility," said Gahry. "I've seen him work jobs outside of his [military occupational specialty] and rank, but he still pulls through and gets the job done."

Gahry also said Lewis has an unquestionable work ethic, desire to learn and desire to extend his knowledge. Gahry also entered the Soldier of the Year competition, where he and Branch both placed in the top five.

As a member of such a successful unit, Lewis knows that confidence is the key to success, and he knows anyone can make it with the right mindset.

"If you know you can give 100 percent, that means you can strive for 110," said Lewis. "If you know you can be competitive and capable, than there is nothing stopping you from being the very best."

With these awards under their belt, Gahry, Branch and Lewis look forward to next year's competition, and they are confident they can tackle any obstacle and challenge in between.