MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER -- After a battalion board, a division nomination and several months of combat, Sgt. Travis E. Horner, Delta Company tank commander, 1st Tank Battalion, was named 1st Marine Division's Marine of the Year in July.
After the battalion board in January, Horner's nomination package was thoroughly checked out by 1st Marine Division, and he was chosen as the best candidate. However, Horner admits there were tough times before he won the title.
"I think the toughest part was the fact that I was in front of sergeants major and first sergeants and trying to not mess up or not know the answer to a question," said Horner.
Captain Gregory Poland, Delta Company commander, nominated the 22-year-old City, State, native. Horner went head-to-head with six other Marines at the Marine of the Year board after his nomination package was accepted.
"When they asked me, 'Why should you be Marine of the Year,' I told them to look at what I've done, and see if anyone could match me." And his accomplishments are impressive. He was honor graduate from both the Corporal's Course and the Sergeant's Course, and he was meritoriously promoted to sergeant by the Secretary of the Navy..
Gunnery Sgt. Michael Philley, Horner's platoon sergeant, said he is the "spitting image" of what every Marine leader should be.
"There's just so much to list why Horner is the best. I've known him for about a year-and-a-half, and from his physical traits to his leadership qualities, he truly sets the example for every Marine," said Philley.
Many things are looked at during any Marine Corps board, such as the cleanliness of the uniform, their bearing when the answer to a question is unknown, the confidence to answer even though you might not be sure it's right, and knowing that you're the best. According to Horner, it's confidence that helps the most.
"You can fail questions or even have [Irish pennants] on your uniform; that's not what counts. What counts is if you go in slamming doors and answering their questions with confidence, you basically have the board," said Horner. "Also be sure to study your Marine Corps knowledge, and don't be timid or afraid when you go up; just know that the people behind the desk put on their trousers the same way you do. They were the same rank one day."
Generally a Marine has to go through board after board to take the title of Marine of the Year. However, since 1st Tanks left for Iraq near the end of January, the unit didn't have the time to provide the boards to the competing Marines, so nomination packages were used to determine the winner for Marine of the Year.
"On January 21 everyone was leaving for Iraq, so we couldn't have a board for the Marine of the Year," said Horner. There wasn't an official date when I won the award because everything was hazy at the time."
Because of this honorable achievement, Horner was recognized at a dinner in Washington, D.C., where he received an NCO sword and a Navy/Marine Corps Achievement Medal to join his Humanitarian Service Medal, National Defense Medal, Meritorious Unit Citation and a Sea Service Deployment Ribbon.
Horner said he couldn't have won the award by himself and attributes his success to his company first sergeant.
"I'd have to say 1st Sgt. Anthony Landrum, [Delta] company first sergeant, has helped me the most. He was always giving advice, like the ins-and-outs of uniforms, how to keep creases thinned out, and just the little things to present yourself better."
What drives Horner into being the motivated Marine that he is today is showing his family that he did the right thing in joining the Marines.
"When I came into the Marine Corps, my family didn't want me to join," said Horner. "I wanted to show them that I'm taking awards and progressing up the rank structure as quick as possible. The biggest motivation was to show everyone that I made the right decision."