JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. — Almost every branch in the Army has its own elite award. That award can only be earned by those who have demonstrated a level of job performance and technical proficiency that sets them apart from their peers.
The Chemical Corps is no different, and one member of the I Corps Protection Cell was the recipient of this honor during a special ceremony here June 21.
Sgt. 1st Class Mark Nelson, a Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosives noncommissioned officer, was shocked and honored to have the Order of the Dragon medallion bestowed upon him as he prepares to move on to his next assignment.
“I was very surprised,” said Nelson, a native of Chicago. “When soldiers leave a unit, everyone kind of believes they deserve an award, but to think that my sergeant major and my chain of command felt I deserved the Order of the Dragon really surprised me. I was just here doing my job the best that I could.”
The Chemical Corps Regimental Association presents these awards to recognize "Dragon soldiers” who have demonstrated the highest standards of integrity and moral character, an outstanding degree of professional competence, and have contributed to the promotion of the Chemical Corps in numerous ways over the course of their career.
As a senior NCO for I Corps, and someone who has had the opportunity to both mentor and observe soldiers throughout his career, Hancock explained that the decision to nominate Nelson was not a difficult one.
“In 26 years, I can give you five names of NCOs I have worked with in any military occupational specialty that showed excellence, and his name is among those,” said Sgt. Maj. Josh Hancock, I Corps protection sergeant major. “He is an outstanding CBRNE NCO, but above that he is just an outstanding NCO overall. He has demonstrated consistently that he can do any job, inside or outside of his field.”
Nelson understands that he could not have made it to this level without the support of his wife, Staff Sgt. Yvonne Nelson, B Company, Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, I Corps.
“My wife knows the significance of this award and its importance,” said Nelson. “She is part of the Quartermaster Corps and they have their own special award. She understands what something like this means to help set you apart from everyone else.”
Hancock shared an important piece of advice for chemical soldiers who want to strive to be a fellow Dragon soldier.
“To achieve this you have to always put your best foot forward each and every day,” said Hancock. “Excellence can’t be part-time; it has to be every day. Once you find out what all the hard jobs are — those jobs everyone else is running away from — go do those jobs and do them well.”`