Even though he lives and serves in Ohio, his unit is based in Wisconsin.
By SHERRI L. SHAULIS
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
NILES -- Chris Mannella made the switch from the Air Force Reserve to the Army Reserve because he thought the Army would afford him more rewards and opportunities.
He had no idea it would also land him the Wisconsin Military Achievement Award.
The Niles man, who teaches the freshman military science course in the ROTC program at Youngstown State University, received the award at a ceremony in Madison, Wis., this month.
Mannella, a sergeant first class in the Army Reserve, traveled with his wife, Linda, and 4-year-old son, Christopher Jr., to receive the award personally.
"I wasn't sure what to expect, but when I got there, I was amazed by all the pageantry involved," he said.
"There were representatives from every branch of the military, politicians, everyone. I was humbled to know I was in the midst of so many good soldiers."
The Wisconsin Military Achievement Award is given annually to military personnel who "meet exceptionally high standards" in leadership ability, military appearance and bearing, attendance and citizenship.
Winners also must be assigned to a National Guard or Reserve unit stationed in Wisconsin.
Though he lives and serves in Ohio, Mannella qualified for the award because he is a member of the 84th Division's Institutional Training Unit based in Wisconsin.
It's not an award you campaign for, Mannella said. Winners are chosen each year based on nominations from their commanders and are selected by a military board of representatives.
"It all basically comes down to hard work and they really seem to notice," Mannella said.
How this came about
Mannella began his military career in 1987 when he joined the Air Force. After two years of active duty, he signed up with the Air Force Reserve and was stationed at the 910th Airlift Wing at the Youngstown Air Reserve Station in Vienna.
Also a Niles police officer, Mannella eventually changed to the Army Reserve, starting out in the military police.
When the 84th Division was in need of instructors, they began looking at Reserve units to fill the void.
Because Mannella had a training and instructional background from his Air Force days, he was asked to teach in an ROTC program.
"I had a choice between universities like Kent and YSU," he said. "I took YSU since it's right in my back yard."
Mannella started his teaching career in 1999. In addition to his classroom duties, he participates in community events with the ROTC cadets, including football games, color guards at parades and events coordinated through local veterans organizations.
Though he is honored by the award, Mannella still enjoys the recognition he and his colleagues get here at home.
"The support for the military in this community is just unbelievable," he said.