Fort Knox, Ky. – One of the University of Central Arkansas’ Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) instructors will be honored as a Soldier Hero while attending the 13th annual Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio, Texas, on Saturday, January 5, 2013.
Master Sgt. Joel D. Fehl, who is the Military Science (MS) III instructor at UCA, is one of 25 “soldier heroes” who will take part in a multitude of activities during the week leading up to the January 5 game, interact with the nation's top high school football players, and talk about their Army experiences.
“This was definitely an unexpected honor,” said Fehl, adding that he regards this recognition as a testament to the dedication of the men with whom he served.
“No matter the situation and hardships endured, the continuous selfless service and personal courage displayed by those I worked with was a constant inspiration,” he said.
Fehl was wounded in October 2010 during an action in the Tangi Valley in Afghanistan as his unit, the 173rd Airborne Brigade, came under mortar attack. He received a Purple Heart. The career Infantryman’s decorations and citations also include the Meritorious Service Medal, the Global War on Terror Expeditionary Medal, and the NATO Medal in addition to the Combat Infantryman’s badge, Expert Infantryman’s Badge and Senior Parachutist Badge.
As a UCA instructor, Fehl spends the bulk of his time preparing cadets to attend and succeed at the Leader Development Assessment Course during the summer between their junior and senior years, and overseeing the cadets’ field training exercises at Camp Robinson, Ark.
Fehl admits the assignment to an ROTC unit was “a culture shock, for sure,” but he said he’s glad to have the chance to get the Army’s next generation of officers ready to lead and take care of the soldiers in their units.
“The combat veterans relate very well to cadets. They are used to leading young people, and they understand the significance of the mission to train future officers,” said Lt. Col. Tracy Koivisto, military science professor at UCA.
Koivisto added that she is “blessed to have several decorated combat veterans as cadre, both NCOs and officers. The value added is that they are like the old E.F. Hutton commercials: when they talk, the cadets listen.”
Fehl appreciates the sentiment, although he is uncomfortable with the attention. Explaining that both his grandfathers and two of his brothers served in the military as well as two of his brothers, he said, “I have always felt that every U.S. citizen should do something to better our country and I felt that my service to my country was something I needed to do.”