CAMP ASHLAND, Neb. –
Nebraska Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Darrin Fulford, senior small group leader, 1-209th Regiment (Regional Training Institute), received the state’s first Master Army Instructor Badge after attending a master instructor selection board at Camp Ashland, Nebraska.
The U.S. Army has three identification badges certified noncommissioned officer instructors within the Noncommissioned Officer Education System can earn if they go beyond the standard. The badges are awarded in three levels: basic, senior and master, based on individual requirements for each level.
For the Basic Army Instructor Badge (BAIB), a Soldier would first need to become a certified instructor which requires them to complete the Common Faculty Development - Instructor Course and then serve 40 hours as an assistant instructor and 40 hours as a primary instructor. After they are certified, they must successfully teach at least 80 hours of instruction as the primary instructor, have two consecutive evaluations conducted on them and conduct four developmental observations of other instructors.
The Senior Army Instructor Badge (SAIB) requires a Soldier to have served a minimum of 12 months as an instructor after submission of the BAIB nomination packet and complete the Instruction Design Basic Course (IDBC), the Evaluating Instructors Course (EIC), conduct a lesson redesign after completion of IDBC, and conduct three evaluations and observations. The instructor must also successfully teach at least 200 hours of instruction as the primary instructor after submission of the BAIB packet (280 total hours).
For the Master Army Instructor Badge (MAIB), a Soldier must have served a minimum of 24 months as an instructor after submission of the SAIB nomination packet, had three evaluations and give four EIC evaluations on other instructors trying to receive their respective badge. Then the Soldier must be recommended by a Master Instructor Selection Board, complete an oral examination of the candidate’s knowledge and application of the instructor competencies, as well as successfully teach 200 hours of instruction as the primary instructor (480 total hours).
Fulford, who received the master badge on Nov. 16, 2022, was the first Nebraska Soldier to receive the badge since it was first introduced by the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) in June of 2014.
“I am very excited to become the first Master Badged Instructor in the State of Nebraska,” Fulford said. “Now we as an academy can initiate the process of qualifying our incredible instructors in the process of obtaining their master instructor badge.”
Before Fulford’s credentialing, the Nebraska Army National Guard didn’t have the required personnel needed to conduct the board required to authorize the award of the master badge. The state brought in Master Sgt. Jon West, chief of training, 1-640th Regiment (Regional Training Institute), Utah National Guard, to be the official master instructor of the board.
“Those who aspire to and/or obtain the master instructor badge, in my opinion, are those who choose to become fully knowledgeable learning professionals,” West said. “It represents hard work, dedication, and professionalism. It would be incredible if every Army instructor aspired to be a master instructor.”
The Master Instructor Selection Board consisted of eight senior noncommissioned officers, of which seven were from Nebraska.
“Having a master badge in the state now gives us the capability to hold our own master boards internally and it sets a new standard for instructors to aim for,” 1st Sgt. Andrew Siemek, deputy commandant, 1-209th RTI. “It’s important to ensure we have the right people leading the badging efforts. Staff Sgt. Fulford is the right person to be the first to accomplish this achievement not just because of his work ethic, but because he is a high character individual who puts the organization and its people before himself.”
The Creed of the Noncommissioned Officer states: “I know my Soldiers and will always place their needs above my own,” and Fulford’s peers believe he truly lives that line.
“Having Staff Sgt. Fulford in the acting senior role for the past two years has not only elevated the performance of the platoon he is in, but it has elevated the performance of his peers in the senior office,” said Master Sgt. Cody Green, chief of training for the 1-209th RTI’s Basic Leader Course. “His people first / team first mentality bleeds into the rest of us.”
“The reason why I pursued this endeavor was not for me, it was for the future of our academy,” Fulford said. “Now the men and women instructors of our academy can carry on this legacy that I have helped build.”
Fulford had many people supporting him along the way to earning the badge, including his wife, peers, and, of course, students.
“This accomplishment would not have been possible without the total support of my wife, Gaileen Fulford, and colleague Sgt. 1st Class Anthony Franklin,” Fulford said. “My wife spent countless hours quizzing and coaching me on a nightly basis on how to conduct myself and answer questions to a selection board. And Sgt. 1st Class Franklin spent his personal time to ensure that my documentation and administrative tasks were up to standard. I thank both of them greatly.”
Fulford added that one of the main reasons he enjoys being an instructor is because of the tremendous responsibility of training future leaders, and he felt pursuing the master instructor badge would help develop a presence the students will look up to.
“Students are here to learn how to become leaders and they are looking for that one person/leader to show them how to accomplish this feat,” Fulford said. “Because of my passion for this organization, I have geared my professional development on setting this organization up for success long after I’m retired and, I have no doubts that our instructors will be outstanding stewards of the profession that will carry on this distinguished program into the future.”