News: Paratroopers prepare to test their skills, knowledge against each other
Story by Sgt. Joseph Guenther
FORT BRAGG, N.C. – Across the 82nd Airborne Division, paratroopers who have been chosen by their sergeants major are preparing to face off tomorrow in the division’s annual Noncommissioned Officer and Trooper of the Year competition.
Every year, each brigade selects a paratrooper and an noncommissioned officer to compete at the division level and determine who is the most physically fit, best trained, and who possesses the greatest knowledge of Army doctrine and the history of the 82nd Airborne Division.
Troopers will take a written exam, conduct land navigation in the field day and night, run an obstacle course to challenge their bodies and minds under intense stress, and will conclude with a final board in front of the division’s top enlisted leaders, including the senior enlisted adviser, Command Sgt. Maj. LaMarquis Knowles.
Competitors are selected by a board of senior enlisted leaders who individually assess each candidate’s knowledge on a variety of subjects. Their confidence and personal appearance are also closely scrutinized. During these private question-and-answer sessions, the candidates are often asked to explain combat tactics, demonstrate marching movements, and even explain their styles of leadership.
The 2nd Brigade Combat Team chose Sgt. Jason Sharp, a combat medic with 1st Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, and Spc. Justin Sampson, a combat engineer with 2nd Brigade Special Troops Battalion to represent the Falcon Brigade.
"I'm honored that the brigade has chosen me to represent them," Sampson said. "It's an awesome opportunity to put my training into perspective."
These two paratroopers have been preparing for the competition for weeks by enduring intensive study sessions and hands-on training with a variety of subject matter experts provided by each battalion in the Falcon Brigade.
On the morning of March 18, they began with classroom and hands-on training at 2nd Battalion, 325th AIR on identifying and using hand grenades, react to an improvised explosive device, move in urban terrain, and move under fire.
The competition will officially begin March 19 at Towle Stadium with the Army physical fitness test, and will be followed by rifle qualification later in the day.