Story by U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Gary Cooper, 1st Cavalry Division Sustainment Brigade Public Affairs Office
Staff Sgt. Roderick Armstrong, Brigade Paralegal NCO, 1st Cavalry Division Sustainment Brigade, was awarded the Sgt. Eric L. Coggins Award for Excellence by The Judge Advocate General of the United States Army, Lt. Gen. Stuart Risch, Nov. 15, in a ceremony at Fort Hood (Now designated Fort Cavazos)’s Mission Training Complex.
Established in 1998, the Sgt. Eric L. Coggins award recognizes the junior Paralegal Specialist or Non-Commissioned Officer who best embodies the standards for which Sgt. Coggins was known.
After beginning his career as an Airborne Soldier at Fort Bragg, N.C., Coggins volunteered for duty in Korea, where his exceptional skills as a leader and paralegal Soldier led to his selection as NCOIC of the First Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division Legal Office at Camp Casey while still a Specialist.
“Now we know today, typically a Staff Sergeant or Sergeant First Class runs a brigade, when it comes to legal work,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Mike Bostic, JAG Regimental Command Sergeant Major. “And here he was, back then, an E4, in charge of a brigade legal office, with all the work that comes with it.”
Coggins distinguished himself during a voluntary deployment to Kuwait, where he ran a superb “frontier” legal office, while also volunteering to serve as a machine gunner and tank gunner, where he became so
proficient that he was selected as gunner on the commander’s tank.
“You should notice a pattern of performance in all this,” Bostic said. “Volunteer for the toughest jobs you can find, go where the Army and JAG Corps need you most, and do the best job that you can do.
In 1996, shortly after his tour in Kuwait, Coggins was diagnosed with liver cancer, and was transferred to Walter Reed Medical Center, where he met Maj. Gen. Walter B. Huffman, then Army Judge Advocate General. Huffman was so impressed by Coggins that he awarded him the Legion of Merit. After Coggins passed away, Huffman established an award in Huffman’s honor.
Lt. Gen. Risch applauded Armstrong, as well as previous award recipients.
“I’m excited to see all that you achieve. I’m certain you are well aware of the successes your predecessors, the recipients of this award have attained, and I have absolutely no doubt that you will follow the same course,” said Risch. “A regimental command sergeant major, a number of other sergeants major, and others who went on to Officer Candidates School and became officers as well, so I truly believe the sky is the limit for you, whatever you decide to do. I wish you all the best, and I charge you, whatever you do, take care of your people, your family, and yourself.”
Armstrong, whose previous assignments were at Camp Carroll, South Korea, and both Kaiserslautern and Baumholder, Germany, expressed his gratitude to his people: his leaders, and Soldiers in his care.
“To my subordinates, thank you for allowing me to mentor, teach and coach you. What an honor it has been to have the opportunity to influence you. Through this, you have also taught me what it means to be a servant-leader, to put your needs above myself, and what it means to be a non-commissioned officer, so thank you,” Armstrong said. “To my leaders, thank you for putting your faith in my ability to be a non-commissioned officer, and pushing me when I thought I had nothing left to give. It was through your leadership, guidance, and most importantly your patience that I actually learned what it meant to be a servant-leader, and learned the Army Values.
Armstrong, a native of Bradenton, Fla., graduated from Manatee High School in 2015, and is currently pursuing his bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland Global Campus. He attributed much of his success to his mother, who, having made the trip to Fort Hood (Now designated Fort Cavazos), was present in the audience. “To my mother, thank you for raising me to be the young man that I am today. Everything that I have accomplished in the last 25 years has been because of the values, the love, the trust that you instilled in me.”
Armstrong concluded by thanking Sgt. Coggins.
“Sergeant Coggins gave me an example of hard work, dedication and perseverance, as well as what we as NCOs should be, know and do. Thank you.”