Trust The Process and Never Quit On Yourself
by U.S. Army Sgt. John Onuoha
October 30, 2018
While some face challenges, and some live their lives wondering how to overcome their obstacles, Spc. Timothy Smith’s story is inspiringly different.
Despite an early struggle in his career to meet the army weight standards, Smith challenged himself and achieved top graduate in the Potential Noncommissioned Officer Cadre Course (PNCO) at Bemowo Piskie Training Area, Poland during the 2018 summer.
While this challenging British course is not typically open to international Soldiers, the invitation was open to those at BPTA. Smith was also the first American Soldier to achieve top graduate in the course.
Smith, an athletic 28-year-old, with a warming smile and a right arm tattoo stating “Family”, is a cavalry scout with the Quickstrike Troop, 1st Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment.
2nd Cav. Regt. is on a six-month rotational assignment in support of the multinational battle group which comprises of U.S., U.K., Croatian and Romanian Soldiers who serve with the Polish 15th Mechanized Brigade as a defense and deterrence force in northeast Poland in support of NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence at BPTA.
Originally from Morton, Illinois, Smith has been married to his wife, Haley, for two years. His parents are Tim and Becky Smith, and he has two sisters, Laura and Sarah.
The transition from being overweight to improving his overall physical fitness and meeting the army’s weight standards was the biggest challenge of his career, he said.
In 2013, he joined the Army because it was something he always loved and wanted to do since he was a kid.
“I don’t know if I watched too many military movies,” Smith said with a smile. “I feel like it fits my personality pretty well for the most part.”
In 2016, Smith arrived to 2nd Cav. Regt. with a promotable status, but lost his promotable status because he was 1 percent over the army’s body weight standard.
Smith enrolled in the Army Body Composition Program and focused on his nutrition. He pushed himself during physical training because he felt depressed thinking that he was about to lose it all.
At the time, thinking of his goals and dreams in the army fading away made him want to quit on himself, and he would come home from work carrying the stress of it.
Separation from the army was his worst nightmare, and he knew he had to improve.
“It was, ‘Hey, if you want to go higher in rank, if you want to support your family, then we have to do this,’” said Sgt. 1st Class Jared Duncan, a cavalry scout and Smith’s platoon sergeant with 2nd Cav. Regt. “I think for him that was a big push.”
Smith’s leading motivation and support through the toughest moments of his challenge was his wife.
Always reassuring and understanding, Haley would eat the same food as him to motivate and remind him that he can achieve his weight and professional goals.
“It felt good having that one person to vent to,” Smith said. “My wife is incredibly supportive. She is great.”
After six months of relentless motivation and hard work in the program, it finally paid off.
“He dropped 5 percent in six months,” Duncan said, “and now he is 3 percent lower than that. Plus he lost an additional 10 pounds in the program.”
Smith said the excitement he felt after meeting the weight standard inspired him to believe that there is no limitation to what he can achieve.
About 5 months ago, Smith’s unit deployed to Poland on a six-month rotational assignment, and he dropped about 30 pounds since arriving to BPTA, Duncan explained, and remarked that Smith is very goal oriented.
A day before the course began; Smith’s platoon sergeant selected him to participate in a British PNCO at BPTA, which included 24 total participants from the U.S., U.K., Croatia and Romania.
“He was the first guy that came to my mind because he doesn’t complain,” Duncan said. “He is very accepting of whatever you get him, and he very much has the mentality of I have got to do it so I’m going to do it to a hundred percent.”
Smith saw it as another opportunity to push himself to the next level of physical readiness.
“Once I set my mind to something like that, it’s not an option,” Smith said. “Because I know if I quit, I will feel like I kind of cheated myself.”
The course focused on command principles and comprised of the practical application of these principles during a mixture of classroom instructions and infantry field exercises designed to develop leadership qualities of Soldiers.
Some participants could not complete the course because of injuries, but they all worked together and encouraged one another to finish strong despite the difficulties.
“If you stop or quit, you just wasted your time and effort,” Smith said. “I also wanted to represent my unit well, and I didn’t want to let them down.”
Although he found it extremely difficult to keep going through the course at a point, his weight loss achievement motivated him to push through the end.
After a long two weeks of strenuous training, the Soldiers waited for the acknowledgement of the course’s top graduate during the final ceremony.
Smith achieved top graduate and was recognized during the PNCO ceremony as the first U.S. Soldier to accomplish the title by Mr. Jonathan Knott, Her Majesty’s Ambassador to Poland.
“Honestly, I was not expecting it or anything,” Smith said. “I felt like it being a team course, we all kind of deserved that. I just was lucky I guess.”
Smith said his wife cried tears of joy when he told her about his great accomplishment.
“She said ‘I feel like you really needed a win, you know,’” Smith said. “Yes I think I did, just to get that motivation higher and keep it high.’”
Smith said that he is thankful for the opportunity, and most importantly humbled and grateful to participate in PNCO with the partner nations Soldiers.
Adding to his celebration, his squadron commander recommended him to go to Ranger School as a reward for his achievement.
Smith is excited about going to Ranger School, and more thrilled about the fact that it will be a bigger challenge to help him grow and continue improving.
“Specialist Smith is a hundred percent what I think any platoon sergeant would want,” Duncan said. “Absolutely a go-to guy, a fire-and-forget Soldier which is what we all want. I think he is a huge asset to anyone he works for.”
Smith had a few words of encouragement for people who go through life challenges that seem impossible to overcome.
“Be positive, don’t stop, just keep going,” he said. “If you set your mind to do something, just don’t stop, you can do it if you don’t quit on yourself.”