Mechanic top soldier

James Berry of Chelsea can be working on a car or standing in drill formation &045;&045; in either situation he knows his stuff.

Berry has been chosen among more than 150 soldiers as the &8220;Soldier of the Year&8221; for the 337th Military Police Company of the U.S. Army. Berry has served 15 years in the armed forces, including time spent in the Special Forces.

He said his military training definitely creeps into daily life.

&8220;Once you are in the military you learn to be precise,&8221; Berry said. &8220;So on the civilian side you are able to handle situations that come up. You don&8217;t mess around.&8221;

In his civilian life Berry is a mechanic with the Shelby County school system.

Both of his jobs are demanding but to become the &8220;Soldier of the Year&8221; he had to go through somewhat of a grueling process of memorizing current events, practicing drill formations and interviewing in front of a panel of army officials.

&8220;You can&8217;t say no when you are nominated for something like this. It&8217;s part of your duty to represent the Army,&8221; Berry said.

It was Berry&8217;s desire to see and do that sparked an interest in the military, after the first Gulf War began in the 1990s.

&8220;I wanted to be apart of it,&8221; Berry said. &8220;Plus, then you get to go different places and see things you couldn&8217;t on a normal job.&8221;

Berry is also a veteran of the war in Afghanistan and has been deployed to that region twice. &8220;Different,&8221; Berry said of his experiences in the war. &8220;It&8217;s a different lifestyle there.&8221;

While Berry continues his daily life as a mechanic and husband, he will have to be preparing for yet another test. Winning soldier of the year in his company means going on to compete for the title in his battalion and then brigade.