A Marine Corps instructor with Company D, 2-13th Aviation Regiment on Fort Huachuca, was the first person in his branch of service to garner an Army Instructor of the Quarter award both here at the 2-13th Army Avn. Regt. and at brigade level, 1st Army Aviation Brigade, Fort Rucker, Ala.
“I felt very lucky about being selected [as both] the company [and] battalion Instructor of the Quarter. When I received the notification email from Fort Rucker stating that I had won the award for [the] Army Aviation [Regiment], I was shocked,” Hochhalter said. “I had to double check the information. I knew my odds were good because of the responses I got from the class I taught, but I figured that a Marine winning an Army Award was a long shot.”
Making the decision to go before the Army Instructor of the Quarter, or IoQ board was personal. Hochhalter explained he had a need to prove to himself that he was one of the best in his field.
“I think it is in every Marine’s nature to be the best they possibly can be at everything,” he added.
Hochhalter was encouraged by Walter Rice and Scott Vasey, Company D, 2-13th Aviation Regiment chief instructors, to fill out the paperwork and prepare a video recording for the board.
IoQ grading criteria comes from Army Regulations 350-70 and 350-10, which look at overall presentation of the lesson, safety, and student participation and interaction. Judges also rate the instructor’s demeanor, the ability to answer students’ questions and overall ability to control the classroom. The instructor is graded in several areas by each judge, and the highest score wins.
“A couple of the judges at Fort Rucker said they did not even notice that I was a Marine until I was confirmed as the winner,” Hochhalter said. “When I went down to Fort Rucker to receive my award, the brigade colonel said it best when he told me, ‘This proves that this is a fair system and only the best instructors are chosen.’”
Hochhalter joined the Marine Corps in 2001. His first military occupational specialty, or MOS, was as an avionics repair technician from 2002 – 2006.
He later moved into the Unmanned Aircraft System, or UAS, field and was trained as an operator on the Pioneer System. In 2007, he transferred to working on the Shadow UAS when the Marine Corps replaced the Pioneer system.
“I have always loved planes. As a high school kid I had no idea exactly what I wanted to do, but I wanted something in the aviation field,” Hochhalter said.
Also during his career, Hochhalter deployed twice to Iraq, once to Afghanistan, and was part of a short Army operation in South Korea with the Shadow UAS on Camp Casey.
“My fondest memory about the MOS [as a UAS operator] was a day in Afghanistan when my crew (five Marines and eight Scan Eagle contractors) and I launched and landed a total of 18 aircraft in four hours,” he explained. “That was my busiest day as a UAS mission commander, and I loved every minute of it.”
In 2012, Hochhalter was selected to be an instructor and received permanent change-of-station orders to Fort Huachuca that August.
The servicemember’s career may soon take a new twist. Hochhalter, if selected for the Army Warrant Officer Program, has decided to leave the Marine Corps.
“I was on the fence about switching services for quite a while, but the recognition I received from the Army helped tip the scale and motivate me to make a change,” he said.
Hochhalter explained how winning the award impacted his future plans dramatically, in the sense that he now has a better chance for selection into the Army Warrant Officer Program. While he is proud to be a Marine, there are no opportunities to adopt a Warrant Officer UAS Program within the Corps.
“After working side-by-side with those in the 2-13th, I have come to develop an appreciation for the Army, and seen firsthand how the Army Training Command works. I take great pride in the opportunity to lead young people in the military regardless of service, while teaching them a difficult MOS,” Hochhalter said. “It is the duty that I have enjoyed the most thus far in my military career.”