6-52 Soldier real ‘Winner’
6-52 Soldier real ‘Winner’
Image by USAG-Humphreys
Story and photo by Capt. Austin Liu
6-52 Air Defense Artillery Battalion
OSAN AIR BASE —Homesickness is common for young Soldiers arriving here for their first duty station.
Private First Class Ryan Winner was no stranger to that feeling. But what separates Winner from the others is that he turned his emotion into the motivation that propelled him to become the 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade Soldier of the Year during the annual competition held this month.
“This is a great moment in my life, I did this for my family and even though they are thousands of miles away, I know they are all very proud of me right now,” Winner said after taking the prestigious award.
Indeed, when asked what was the secret behind his success, the 25-year old communications specialist assigned to A Battery, 6-52 Air Defense Artillery Battalion, smiled and said that “his dedication to his family and God is what drove me every day to do my best in the Army.”
This same dedication also drove Winner to excel above his peers during the grueling week-long competition, which consisted of rifle marksmanship, Warrior Tasks and drills exercises, day and night land navigation course, first aid courses, various boards, and a culminating 12-mile forced ruck march.
Winner confidently outperformed his competitors in every event.
However, the top Soldier in the Dragon Brigade’s journey to success has not always been an easy one.
When Winner first arrived at the Republic of Korea, he was struck with loneliness unlike any he has ever experienced before.
“Korea was my first duty station after graduating from Advanced Individual Training,” said Winner, an Ohio native. “And being so far away from my family in a foreign nation was really frustrating to me.”
Winner, who came from a “very close-knit Christian family”, said, “I remember that my sister was getting married during that time when I first got to Korea, and the fact that I had to miss her wedding made the situation worse.”
“I think he was pretty shell-shocked from his first duty station during the initial few months in Korea,” said Sgt. Billy Smith, who has been a mentor and squad leader for the young Soldier since his arrival here. “But everyone saw that there is something in him that sets him apart from the rest … and he quickly rebounded.”
Winner quickly pulled himself up and began placing his attention on something else.
“One day, I heard about the Soldier of the Month Board that our unit does and I said to myself that I want to be part of that great honor,” Winner said. “I think the competitor inside of me really came out that day, and I knew that drive is what will get me through this difficult time.”
Winner began piling up accolade after accolade from various boards he won at the battalion level.
“I can only describe Winner as always going above and beyond in everything he does,” said Smith, who was his sponsor during most of the boards.
He continued, “Winner never ceases to amaze me. His calm demeanor and maturity really served as an inspiration to all in the unit. I think his devotion to his family and religion was the main reasons he did what he did.”
It is unusual in contemporary American society for a recent college graduate to enlist in the military and forgo the commissioning route.
But that was what Winner did after earning a computer science degree from Wright State University with a 3.6 grade point average.
As Winner received the award, he thought about his family back home.
“I called them and told them the good news the first opportunity I got,” he said. “And I remember that my mother was crying on the line out of pure joy.”