The Harford County Chamber of Commerce hailed the nation’s armed forces and recognized the Aberdeen Proving Ground Noncommissioned Officer, Soldier, and Family of the Year during the 40th Annual Military Appreciation Awards Luncheon at the Richlin Ballroom in Edgewood, May 18.
The chamber’s Military Affairs Committee hosts the event during APG’s Armed Forces Week activities each year. The theme of the program was “All Soldiers, all missions, always ready.” In addition to the service members, Maryland Gold Star Mothers, area veterans, and current service members also were recognized for their contributions to the community.
Harford County Executive Barry Glassman said he was pleased to represent the “Harford County citizens who recognize and appreciate the work [and] the sacrifice that our men and women in the military give not only to our country, but to folks around the world.”
APG Senior Commander Maj. Gen. Randy S. Taylor thanked the community members for their continued support of the nation’s armed forces, especially those stationed in Harford County.
“I’ve been around the Army a little bit, going on 30 years, and I don’t think I’ve ever experienced anything like this,” Taylor said. “This is awesome… I think this is the best kept secret in the Army to be here at APG and in Harford County. There’s really something magical here.”
David Craig, the executive director of the Maryland World War I Centennial Commission and lifelong resident of Harford County, was the guest speaker.
Craig praised the relationship between APG and Harford County residents.
“This is not just about bringing jobs to Harford County, this is also about making sure we have people who can spend their time and their dedication to making sure that the husbands and wives, or the sons and daughters, or our neighbors and friends who are enlisted in the Army, the Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard, will have the best information to help them [do their jobs],” he said.
The 2017 NCO of the Year is Staff Sgt. Keiden Jones with the U.S. Army 1st Area Medical Laboratory, or AML, Detachment. The 2017 Soldier of the Year is Spc. Tanrak Ploykao with the U.S. Army Health Physics Division at the Army Public Health Center, or APHC.
The Murdock family, which includes Su-Ann Murdock, a supervisory chemist with APHC, her spouse Terrell Murdock, their daughter Savanna, and son Tyler received the 7th annual Family of the Year award for their dedication to APG and Harford County.
NCO, Soldier, and Family award winners represent the installation in local community events during the coming year.
APG NCO of the Year
Staff Sgt. Keiden Jones
Jones, who hails from Chickasha, Oklahoma, joined the Army in 2007 as a medical laboratory specialist. She serves as the Detachment Sgt. for the 1st AML where she is responsible for the welfare of 30 personnel assigned to the unit.
Jones said she was shocked and honored to be selected as the APG NCO of the Year.
“To me it’s a very big deal because as an NCO you already feel like you’re always trying to be that shining light, the beacon, that example for the Soldiers to emulate,” she said. “So now, it’s just on a bigger scale… I really need to be the best person that I can be… [because] I have other people looking towards me now, not just the soldiers,” she said.
Jones’ future aspirations include becoming a command sergeant major and completing her degree in laboratory management which she is working towards at the University of Maryland University College.
As for her current position, Jones said that she loves being an NCO.
“I love the interactions with the Soldiers- coaching, teaching, and mentoring them. I feel like that’s the best way that I can make a difference,” she said.
Soldier of the Year
Spc. Tanrak Ploykao
A native of Bangkok, Thailand, Ploykao relocated to the U.S. in 2008, and enlisted in the Army in 2013.
Ploykao assists in the maintenance, calibration, and accountability of her unit’s equipment and property. In addition, she supports the division’s x-ray survey mission, radiation survey, and site investigation mission.
She was previously assigned to the 5th Medical Detachment in Yongsan, Korea where she conducted sanitation inspections of food servicing facilities, child development centers and swimming pools.
Ploykao said she was surprised to be named the APG Soldier of the Year.
“[This board] was my second board of my military career. It was a lot of preparation beforehand,” she said. “It’s awesome… that I actually accomplished something for me and for my unit as well… I tried to use all of the Army values that I learned… like personal courage to go out there and accomplish [this].
Ploykao is pursuing an Associate of Science in Pre-Nursing at Harford Community College and hopes to become an NCO during her career in the Army. She thanked her unit and her family for helping her reach her goal.
“I would like to thank my NCOs, and my family, even though they’re not here. They are my drive,” she said.
Family of the Year
Members of the Murdock family volunteer primarily with the APG chapel gospel service where they led the Ushering Ministry for fiscal year 2016. The family organized and scheduled ushering activities and maintained the communion table traditions of the service.
In addition, they serve in the Sunday school, children’s church, youth choir, the men’s and women’s choirs, Vacation Bible School, and with the Freestate ChalleNGe Academy Ministry.
When not volunteering at APG, they serve at the Sharing Table program in Edgewood.
Su-Ann Murdock said serving the military is especially important to her and her family.
“It has been an honor for us to be able to serve our military community and represent Harford County in doing so. It is only a small token compared to what they do ,” she said.
The program included the posting of the colors by the Freestate ChalleNGe Academy color guard and the national anthem which was sung by Spc. Jessie Lovett-French with A Battery, 3rd Air Defense Artillery (JLENS).