After winning the best paralegal competition at Fort Bliss, Texas, earlier this month, Pfc. Richard Zheng stepped into his battalion command sergeant major’s office.

Command Sgt. Maj. Douglas Jones, the top enlisted soldier for the division’s 4th Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, congratulated Zheng on his victory and asked a simple question, according to 1st Armored Division public affairs officials who described the encounte. What was the one Army thing Zheng wanted that Jones could provide?

Zheng, whose battalion is part of the division’s 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, had but one request. He wanted to “shoot a tank.”

So on Oct. 23, Jones took Zheng out to the installation’s Range 88 to join tankers from the battalion’s Comanche Company who were doing gunnery tables that week. The paralegal jumped into the gunner’s seat on Sgt. Logan McCormick’s M1A2 Abrams tank and fired its 120mm main gun at a target on the range.

Jones, the battalion’s command sergeant major, emphasized the importance of recognizing success. In his eyes, getting Zheng into the gunner’s seat was but a “small token of appreciation” for his “hard work and dedication,” and top performers deserve similar opportunities.

“This not only provides an opportunity to show how proud we are of the soldier and their accomplishment in front of the people most important to them, but it also shows other soldiers these goals are attainable,” said Jones. “All they need to do is push themselves and they can be the next ones standing in front of the formation. This can breed success in an organization because success is contagious.”

Zheng will compete in the III Corps’ top paralegal competition at Fort Cavazos, Texas, beginning Nov. 6.

Should he win again, it’s unclear what else in the Army’s arsenal — such as HIMARS rocket artillery or Javelin anti-tank missiles — Zheng might request to shoot.

Davis Winkie covers the Army for Military Times. He studied history at Vanderbilt and UNC-Chapel Hill, and served five years in the Army Guard. His investigations earned the Society of Professional Journalists' 2023 Sunshine Award and consecutive Military Reporters and Editors honors, among others. Davis was also a 2022 Livingston Awards finalist.

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