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New Richmond recruiter secures top honor

Sgt. First Class Joshua Mannel, a National Guard recruiter based at the New Richmond Armory, was chosen as the recruiting and retention noncommissioned officer of the year for 2012.

A Wisconsin Army National Guard recruiter from New Richmond has been judged to be the best in the nation.

Sgt. First Class Joshua Mannel won a national competition Jan. 17 in Nashville, Tenn., and earned the title of the National Guard's Recruiting and Retention Noncommissioned Officer of the Year for 2012. He was deemed No. 1 of the 3,340 recruiters across the country.

For the past four years, Mannel has been a successful recruiter in western Wisconsin. In 2010, his first full year on the job, he placed second in the national competition.

With the help of his wife and family, Mannel said he set his sights on winning the top honor this year and he achieved it.

"I've been down this path before," he said. "I made it a goal to get back there but this time I wanted to capitalize on the opportunity."

The annual competition began on the state level as the approximately 75 National Guard recruiters from Wisconsin were evaluated on various aspects of their job performance -- total recruits for the year, total number of recruits that follow through and complete training, and other factors.

After gaining the top Wisconsin designation, Mannel advanced to the regional competition at Fort McCoy where he competed against individual state winners from Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Iowa and Minnesota.

The competition became more intense at that level, Mannel said, as he was "asked a ton of questions" and evaluated by a panel of military judges.

"Everything is based off a point system," he explained. "They want to determine who will be the best representative for the region."

When the judging was complete, Mannel was chosen as one of the nation's "Expert 7," a distinction reserved for the top recruiting noncommissioned officer in each of the nation's seven regions.

Mannel traveled to Tennessee Jan. 15-17 for the national competition that involved the seven top recruiters.

While Mannel had 27 enlistments for 2012, he competed against recruiters who recorded more than 50 enlistments during the year.

"It's not just about enlistments," he said. "It's based on the total soldier concept. A bunch of things played into who would win the award."

Mannel said one thing that worked in his favor was his continuing efforts as a recruiter to "provide service after the sale."

He said he doesn't just sign up recruits and then forget about them. Mannel said he stays in touch with the soldiers and their families, answering questions and providing support.

"As a recruiter, it's essential that you keep your ethics intact," he said. "Recruiters have gotten a bad rap sometimes because recruits have been lied to. In a small community, you can't do that and you have to follow up."

In the end, Mannel said he was thrilled to be announced as the national winner. He will travel to Washington, D.C., in April to attend the official awards ceremony conducted by the National Guard. All 50 winners of the state recruiter competitions will be in attendance.

"I feel like all the hard work has paid off," Mannel said. "It's a privilege to be one of the first guys from Wisconsin to ever win this honor."

Mannel, a Neillsville native, began his military career in 2002 and was stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C., with the 82nd Airborne Division. He served four tours of duty in Iraq before leaving the active military in 2008.

A year later, he was encouraged to return home to his native Wisconsin to become a recruiter. It's turned out to be a good choice for Mannel. He recruits in much of western Wisconsin, but is assigned to the New Richmond, Somerset, Osceola, St. Croix Falls, Amery, Clear Lake and Clayton school districts. He also is the recruiter on the Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College campus in New Richmond.

Mannel said he's excited to work with young men and women who are looking to serve their country and secure educational benefits as well.

"We are able to change the lives of these young men and women," he said. "Many of them are looking for ways to pay for college or just to make some additional income. We help lead them on a positive path and we get to watch them grow as soldiers and people."

Mannel and his wife, Jill, have three children -- Kambria, Kinleigh and Kenadi.