Staff Sgt. Joel Pena
10th Mountain Division Journalist
Fort Drum Soldiers and community members gathered June 5 at the Commons to celebrate the Association of the United States Army’s annual dinner and the Army’s 238th birthday.
AUSA is a nonprofit professional and educational association dedicated to being a “voice for the Army” providing “support for the Soldier.”
The AUSA dinner honored community businesses and individuals whose efforts had a positive impact on the morale and retention of the 10th Mountain Division (LI), and celebrated the Army’s birthday.
Tina Wildhaber, local AUSA chapter president, welcomed the attendees, and Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Paul Ramsey, Family Life Center chaplain, offered the invocation for the night.
“Along with our AUSA chapter awards and the Army’s birthday, we’ll be honoring the Fort Drum’s ‘Man and Woman’ of the Mountain,” Wildhaber said. “The Man and Woman of the Mountain is a high honor given to outstanding civilians who provided outstanding selfless service to the Fort Drum community.”
Before the awards were presented, the All Points North Quartet, an all-ladies barbershop quartet, entertained the crowd with the ringing chords of their unique brand of a cappella harmony.
After the quartet’s performance and before dinner was served, Wildhaber, along with Randy Fipps, vice president awards for AUSA; Maj. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, Fort Drum and 10th Mountain Division (LI) commander; Command Sgt. Maj. Rick Merritt, division senior enlisted adviser; and Command Sgt. Maj. Mark Oldroyd, garrison senior enlisted adviser, presented awards to some exceptional Soldiers, civilians and organizations for improving the welfare and quality of Army communities.
Oldroyd presented the Fort Drum Garrison Soldier of the Year award to Spc. Jarred D. Soster and the Fort Drum Garrison NCO of the Year award to Sgt. Zachary J. Vernon.
Merritt presented the 10th Mountain Division (LI) NCO of the Year award to Staff Sgt. Jason Selvon, 91st Military Police Battalion, and the 10th Mountain Division (LI) Soldier of the Year award to Spc. Derek J. Probizanski, 2nd Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team.
Townsend presented the AUSA Volunteer Family of the Year Award to the Family of Sgt. 1st Class Jay Hoffman, a member of 91st
Military Police Battalion. Hoffman’s Family includes his wife, Michelle; son, Isaac, and daughter, Jessica.
“Mr. and Mrs. Hoffman and the Family have exemplified the characteristics of an Army volunteer Family,” Fipps said, “which consist of service, enthusiasm, caring attitude and giving 100 percent into any activity they are involved in Fort Drum and other Army bases.”
Michael H. McKinnon, deputy to the garrison commander, presented Jerry Wildhaber with the chapter's Department of the Army Civilian of the Year Award.
Townsend presented the Man and Woman of the Mountain Awards to Jay Boak and Karen Clark.
Wildhaber presented the AUSA Corporate member of the Year award to Fuccillo’s Auto Mall and the AUSA Volunteer of the Year award to Steve Schanely.
After the awards ceremony, Wildhaber presented Townsend, the guest speaker.
“It is appropriate that on the 238th birthday of our Army, that we honor these individuals and organizations,” he said. “Each of these honorees and all of you demonstrated what is good about Fort Drum, what’s great about our community here and what’s great about our Army.”
During Townsend’s speech, he addressed three topics: sexual assault and senior leadership misconduct; Soldier for life; and the story of Mary Young Pickersgill.
“I’m confident that the great majority of our Soldiers don’t live in fear of sexual assault,” he said. “I’m confident that our Soldiers know that they have avenues to report this kind of misconduct when it happens. I’m confident that our leaders – many of them whom are in this room tonight – will take the right action when they find this kind of thing going on.”
Townsend also spoke about Soldier for life, a concept the Army is placing increasing emphasis on, he said.
“The Army wants to ensure that our Soldiers start strong, serve strong and remain Army strong after they take off their uniform,” he said. “We want our veterans to be willing and able to represent America’s Army and productively contribute to and serve their communities for a lifetime of service, after they leave the formation.”
He also shared the story of Mary Young Pickersgill, the maker of the Star Spangled Banner that was hoisted over Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore in the War of 1812.
Townsend concluded his speech with a toast to Mary Young Pickersgill, Francis Scott Key, the U.S. Army and to Old Glory. Long may she wave, he said.
After a round of applause, Wildhaber thanked Townsend and all who attended the night’s activity.
Afterward, Ramsey concluded the event with a prayer.