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News | Oct. 4, 2021

USMEPCOM Military Members of the Year

By Derrik Noack USMEPCOM

Ten MEPS service members competed in the annual USMEPCOM Military Members of the Year (MMOY) competition last week in Boston. The winners, announced Sept. 28, are Army Cpt. Shayla Leathers (Jacksonville MEPS), Army 1st Sgt. Lora Kelly (Baltimore MEPS), Army 1st Sgt. Anthony Toolin (Des Moines MEPS), Navy Chief Hospital Corpsman Jean Atencio (Harrisburg MEPS) and Navy Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Kurt Budde (Raleigh MEPS).

Competitors were challenged mentally and physically throughout the process, which began at the battalion level. After competing and advancing through the levels of command, only 10 remained for the final series of events. Once in Boston, the competitors’ schedule of events included a physical fitness test, extensive field study of the USS Constitution, oral presentation, personal leadership plan, leadership style essay and formal board.

“We were given a number of scenarios that really made us think outside the box,” said Budde. “Hearing how others answered the questions, along with the feedback, gave us a better understanding on how to handle obscure situations.”

Competitors could prepare for most of the events by maintaining their physical readiness, learning about their personal leadership styles and familiarizing themselves with the USMEPCOM mission. What truly put them to the test was the unexpected, or on the spot, situations and questions that tested their knowledge.

“We threw them off guard and made them think on their feet,” said Marine Gunnery Sgt. Edgar Jimenez, former MMOY and Military Personnel Liaison at USMEPCOM HQ. “The most difficult questions were on their support services knowledge”.

Jimenez said judging was tough, and in the end it came down to a difference of just one or two points. Although it would have been great to return to their local MEPS with bragging rights, those who made it all the way to the end were thankful for the experiences and connections they made along the way.

“The camaraderie built with other competitors was excellent,” said Army Capt. Elijah Fennell III (Denver MEPS). “I wish there were more opportunities to gather even at the battalion or sector level. This has provided me some great points of contact for different sections that I can pass along.”