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By Army Sgt. Zoe Morris, West Virginia National Guard
West Virginia National Guard
Cpt. Richard Payne is the kind of officer that sets the tone for why the military is one of the most trusted entities in the United States, according to West Virginia Army National Guard (WVARNG) Chief of Staff Col. Robert Kincaid, his longtime mentor. It’s the ways in which Payne epitomizes the ideals of Duty, Honor, and Country that lead him to receiving prestigious recognition at the 36th Annual General Douglas MacArthur Leadership award ceremony at Conmy Hall, Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Va., on November 15, 2023.
Payne is an engineer officer currently assigned as the operations officer and Active Guard Reserve (AGR) administrative officer with the WVARNG’s 197th Regiment, Regional Training Institute located at Camp Dawson in Kingwood, West Virginia. He was nominated for the Army-wide award by the 1092nd Engineer Battalion, with Lt. Col. Melvin “Rockey” Hodges as the commander.
The General Douglas MacArthur Foundation, in coordination with the Department of the Army, established leadership award to recognize company grade officers who demonstrate the ideals for which General MacArthur stood: Duty, Honor, and Country while promoting and sustaining competent junior officer leadership in the Army.
Out of 28 yearly awards, only seven are awarded to National Guard members, making Payne’s nomination and award significant.
Being from the Guard is so important because he represents what his community is all about.
“He’s from West Virginia, he’s part of the West Virginia Army National Guard, and he epitomizes all those ideals, to include having those grassroots and being a Citizen-Soldier,” Kincaid said.
Payne said for him, leadership is an art not a science, and as a leader one must be adaptive in order to be successful.
"I have been extremely fortunate to have strong mentors throughout my career that have showed me the right path to not only be successful in my own life, but more importantly to be impactful to the Soldiers I am charged with leading," Payne said. "There is no doubt that my selection for this award is as much of a reflection on the leaders I have served with as it is on me."
"I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the NCO’s that I have served closely with for nearly a decade," Payne said. "You have helped shape me as a leader and it would have been impossible for me to be successful in my career if it wasn’t for you. Officers are charged with leading but throughout my career some of the best leaders I have ever met are part of the NCO Corps."
Selection is based on overall leadership performance during the calendar year and considers criteria such as:
Leadership: performance that exemplifies the ideals of Duty, Honor, and Country.
Influence: the ability to influence others to accomplish the mission by providing purpose, direction, and motivation.
Proficiency: the nominee is technically and tactically competent.
Values: the nominee is committed to the Army values of loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage.
Team-building: the nominee develops cohesive teams that anticipate requirements and exercise initiative within the commander’s intent.
Personal skills: the nominee exhibits intangible aspects of leadership relating to people skills, interpersonal communication skills, and the quality of the leadership climate; for example, the ability to understand human nature (empathy) and the ability to gain consensus among diverse groups.
Payne said that while some of General MacArthur’s career is viewed as controversial, his accomplishments are undeniable. He is striving to be as impactful throughout his military career as MacArthur was.
“He has the mental agility to adapt to any situation, which is really the hallmark of the Army,” Kincaid said. “The reason that the Army is so successful is because its Soldiers and officers are taught and developed to be free thinkers.”
"I would like to thank the 1092nd Engineer Battalion, 111th Engineering Brigade, and the State leadership for nominating me for the General MacArthur Award," Payne said. "I was humbled and honored to be recognized as one of the best Company Grade Officers in the country. The experience of going to the Pentagon and standing amongst the current and future leaders of the military is unforgettable."
"I cannot thank my wife Andrea Payne and my parents Richard and Janell Payne enough for the continued support you have given me, and the sacrifices you have made for me to be successful," he said. "There is no doubt that I would not be in the position I am in without you. To my dad, you have been my mentor my whole life and taught me how to lead from the front long before I joined the military. I am the Man and the Officer I am today because of the values you instilled in me at an early age. Thank you."
Payne's previous assignments are Platoon Leader and Executive Officer for the 119th Combat Engineering Company (Sapper), and 1092nd Engineer Battalion Assistant Operations Officer. After completing his last assignment with the 1092nd Engineer Battalion in 2019, he was offered a broadening opportunity with Special Operations Detachment Europe (SODE). While assigned to SODE, he deployed in 2020 to Baghdad, Iraq in support of the Special Operations Joint Task Force (SOJTF) as the Engineer Forward and Force Protection Officer. After returning from deployment, he was selected for command and returned to where it all started at the 119th Sapper Company.
He is a graduate of the Engineer Officer Basic Course and the Engineer Captains Career Course. He has also earned his Master of Business Administration (MBA) in 2021, with the hopes of earning his second master’s in emergency management by the end of the 2023.
Payne’s awards and decorations include the Joint Service Commendation Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Inherent Resolve Campaign Medal with Campaign Star, Ranger Tab, Sapper Tab, Parachutist Badge, Air Assault Badge, Army Instructor Badge, German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge, German Armed Forces Badge for Weapons Proficiency (Schutzenschnur), and Army Engineer Regiment’s Steel De Fleury.