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Recruiting and Retention College instructor named TRADOC NCO Instructor of the Year

By Amanda Surmeier USAREC Public Affairs

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For the second year in a row, an instructor from the U.S. Army Recruiting and Retention College has been named the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command Noncommissioned Officer Instructor of the Year.

Sgt. 1st Class Heather Rankin was announced among the 2020 winners in a TRADOC memorandum May 8.

In order to compete, each candidate had to submit a command endorsement, develop a lesson plan, and provide a video of themselves instructing. The competition was steep, with instructors from every training command across the Army vying for the title.

“My motivation was really the developmental portion of it. It’s almost a forcing function to ensure that you are digging into any kind of literature you can to become a better instructor, a better facilitator, learning new teaching methods,” Rankin said. “The whole process forced me to do that because I wanted to perform the best as possible. I wanted to be the best instructor I could be for my students so they could have the best experience possible while attending the course.”

Rankin believes that her recognition as the TRADOC NCO Instructor of the Year shows the Army the caliber of instructor that is provided at the RRC.

“The quality of training they’re going to receive from an institute that has instructors that are continuously being recognized as among the best speaks volumes to anyone that is going to attend the college,” Rankin said.

Rankin, a Sandy Creek, New York, native, left her small town to join the Army in 2005. A call from an old friend and current Soldier led her to the nearest recruiting station the next day. She originally enlisted as a human resource specialist, but looking for a challenge and wanting to make a difference in the lives of future Soldiers, Rankin converted to a recruiter in 2013.

Rankin’s first assignment took her to Atlantic City, New Jersey, where she spent two years telling her Army story, providing purpose and inspiring others to want to be a Soldier too. She went on to spend three years as the station commander of Syracuse Recruiting Battalion before receiving her assignment to the Recruiting and Retention College, where she currently serves as an instructor.

“The best part is the relationship that you build with the students,” Rankin said. “I learn just as much from them as they do from me. I love to hear their experiences.”

The RRC already holds its instructors to a high standard, and with her new title, Rankin is ready to share her lessons learned with the other instructors and help them ensure they are always performing at their best. For those newly assigned to the RRC, the job can be daunting, but Rankin wants them to know the payoff makes it worth it.

“Never forget how powerful of a position you’re really in because as an instructor, you have the power to influence and inspire the entire command,” Rankin said. “Your ability to provide quality instruction to them will influence how USAREC is going to be in the future.”

When she’s not working or running marathons, Rankin spends her free time playing board games, hiking and camping with her Army veteran husband of 14 years, four children and two golden retrievers. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Management from Post University and is currently working towards a master’s degree in Human Resources and Organizational Development through the University of Louisville.

She plans to spend the rest of her Army career with USAREC. Her goals are to become a sergeant major before retirement and to continue to influence the future leaders of the command.

“The Army gave me passion and pride and has offered me more opportunities than I could have ever imagined,” Rankin said. “There’s no better job in the Army than being a recruiter and the higher up you go, the more you can influence… The Army has made my dreams come true, even though at the time of enlistment, I had no idea just how big my dreams could be.”  

Rankin will join the rest of the winners at a recognition ceremony that will be held during the TRADOC Commander’s Forum this August. Each winner will receive a commander’s 4-star note, a certificate of achievement, and a plaque from the TRADOC commanding general.