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NEWS | April 28, 2023

Kentucky engineer platoon leader wins outstanding platoon leader award

By Sgt. 1st Class Andrew Dickson, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs Office

A Kentucky Army National Guard platoon leader was awarded the 2022 Lt. Orville Munson Award at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri on April 28, 2023.

1st Lt. Jason Ball, a platoon leader with the 2061st Multi-Role Bridge Company, received the award from U.S. Army Col. Joseph C. Goetz, the commandant of the U.S. Army Engineer Regimental School.

The Munson award is given annually to honor an engineer lieutenant or warrant officer platoon leader in the Active Army and Army National Guard in recognition of outstanding contributions to military engineering by demonstrated technical and leadership ability.

“We select the very best from the Active Army and the Army National Guard to recognize military engineers and show that we take pride in what we do,” said Goetz.

Ball, from Lexington, Kentucky, was prior enlisted in aviation before attending the Reserve Officer Training Corps with the University of Kentucky and since graduating, he has continued to make a positive impact on the 2061st.

Ball’s innovation and his ability to get in with the bridge company and come up with different ways to train has really stood out to us,” said U.S. Army Col. James B. Richmond, the commander of the 149th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade. “The bridge company has so many difficulties getting to training areas because they are so large and he is one that has helped them look for local training areas and get boats in the water more often.”

“[We’re looking for] innovation. Innovation and using a young mind to find new ways to train is what a good lieutenant really does,” added Richmond. “Our motto is “Let us try” and that is what he really does.”

Since commissioning and taking on the role of platoon leader, Ball has taken charge to track and help his Soldiers plan out their careers, seek additional training opportunities on crewserve weapons, and plan several field training exercises for his platoon and his company.

On one occasion, he even identified a local public boat ramp and coordinated with local officials to use the ramp as a training area, and helped designate the ramp as a local training area for future use.

Logistically, Ball has also helped field the new M1977A4 Common Bridge Transporter trucks and planned an overhaul of his platoon’s motorpool footprint to accommodate the equipment without extending their overall footprint.
Ball is also the only graduate of the Army’s Pathfinder school in the 206th Engineer Battalion. Ball earned the slot by his high academic scores in the Engineer Basic Officer Leaders Course. Ball uses that experience and incorporates that training into his training plan for his platoon.

Ball credits his success to being a quick thinker and making decisions based on his experience and education.

“You have to be able to think on your feet,” said Ball. “Being able to adjust on the fly and make a choice. You can over analyze a situation over and over but you have to trust your decision making process.”

No matter what, Ball gives most of his credit to the NCOs he works with in the bridge company.

Ball added, “I can make the best plans in the world but if my NCOs are not there to execute those plans, it doesn’t matter. My NCOs are the best and make my plans happen.”

Ball’s wife, Dr. Michelle Baltam, was in attendance to see him receive the award. They are expecting their first child in September.

Richmond added about Ball and other recipients of the Munson award.

“Lt. Ball is an up-and-coming leader in the Engineer Corps,” said Richmond. “Every time one of our guys wins this, they just turn into a rising star.”

According to Ball, he is the third Kentucky Army National Guard platoon leader in a row to win this award. Kentucky engineers are known for their award winning excellence with many companies winning the Lt. Gen. Emerson C. Itscher Award within the past decade.

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