A native of Bronx has earned the U.S. Army’s “Career Counselor of the Year” title for 2014.
Staff Sgt. Eric Detheridge, the senior career counselor for U.S. Army Europe’s 66th Military Intelligence Brigade, Wiesbaden, Germany, took top honors in the active Army category of the competition at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall in Washington, DC, January 6 – 8, 2014.
The annual competition identifies the best career counselor within the Department of the Army’s eight major Army commands.
The job of a military career counselor includes helping active-duty Soldiers nearing the end of their enlistment contracts to reenlist to stay in the Army; to transition to Reserve components if they want to remain in uniform but do not desire to stay on active duty after their contracts end; and assisting Soldiers who would like to change the job they perform for the Army.
The counselors also advise Soldiers on other military career programs for which they may be eligible, such as officer or special skills training.
“We are the subject-matter experts on a lot of programs within the Army; special programs like Officer Candidate School, Green to Gold and Special Forces. We can assist with getting Soldiers transferred into those programs,” the sergeant said.
Detheridge was born at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., but moved with his mother to Bronx when he was three years old.
“The surroundings were rough, and I was raised by my mother who was single,” said Detheridge. “She definitely did her best to keep me out of trouble from drugs and gangs, which were all around.”
“I applied for college, but that did not seem like a route I wanted to take,” he said. “I didn’t feel like I put enough effort into it. The military was an alternative, to do something positive.”
He arrived at basic training at Fort Benning, GA, in September 2003. After graduation nine weeks later he moved across the state to Fort Gordon, where he trained as a signal systems specialist. He then headed for another Georgia post – Fort Stewart – for seven and a half years with the 4th Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division. During that time he completed a total of 37 months deployed to Operation Iraqi Freedom.
While at Fort Stewart Detheridge decided it was time to see what else the Army could offer him. After six years as a signal systems specialist, he signed up to change jobs and become a career counselor. He spent two more years at Fort Stewart as a counselor with the 703rd Brigade Support Battalion.
After spending his entire military career up to that point in Georgia, Detheridge finally got orders to a duty station on the other side of the globe. He arrived at the 66th Military Intelligence Brigade here in 2011 to take charge of the brigade’s career counselor program.
“Staff Sergeant Detheridge is by far one of the most supreme talents we have in our career counselor field,” said Sgt. Maj. Dean Drummond, the Command Career Counselor for the U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command at Fort Belvoir, VA. “I have not met a more humble and vital asset to our program.”
Drummond said he selected Detheridge from five finalists to represent INSCOM at the Army competition, and served as his sponsor for the event.
Detheridge said when he arrived in Washington he knew he was in top form for the competition.
“I could tell by looking around that my focus was definitely there. I am not saying that the other competitors were not focused, but I was in the zone,” said Detheridge.
The three-day competition was made up of three main events: a standard Army physical fitness test consisting of two minutes of push-ups, two minutes of sit-ups, and a 2-mile run; a timed 50-question written test; and an appearance before a board of five sergeants major who grilled competitors on their military knowledge, skills and bearing.
In addition to the three events, judges assessed each competitor based on a submission packet that described their goals and accomplishments.
“The hardest part was the written exam, only because it was an hour and we didn’t have any resources,” said Detheridge. “It is not a test you can necessarily prepare for, because we didn’t know what was going to be on the test.”
Before the winner was announced, the competitors who did best in each individual event were congratulated. Detheridge’s name was not one of those called. He says he thought he was out of the running, but remembered Drummond told him that not winning an event did not necessarily mean that a competitor had lost the overall title.
A few moments later Detheridge learned how true that statement was, when he was declared Career Counselor of the Year.
He says he was a bit surprised when they called his name, and it took a moment for him to realize his hard work had paid off.
Detheridge said much of the credit for the win goes to his family’s support. He said his wife, LeAndrea, spoke with him on the phone after each event to encourage him and keep his spirits up. He said Drummond’s mentorship and the faith the sergeant major put in him by giving him the opportunity to represent INSCOM was a big factor as well.
The sergeant said he plans to stay in the military for as long as possible and is currently in the process of becoming an instructor at the Army’s career counselor school.
Detheridge is scheduled to return to the U.S. capital later this year to receive the award.