News: Hoosier troops vie for Soldier, NCO of the Year
Story by Staff Sgt. Jeff Lowry
CAMP ATTERBURY, Ind. -- Indiana's Soldier and Non-commissioned Officer of the Year competition for 2012 started with an icebreaker Friday night and ended with an awards ceremony Sunday afternoon, but the events in between were anything but ceremonial.
Saturday, the soldiers and NCOs awoke at 5 a.m., and finished at midnight. Events included an Army physical fitness test, weapons qualification, warrior tasks evaluation, daytime land navigation test, a combatives tournament and a land navigation test.
The second day's events included an eight-mile road march, a timed obstacle course, a written test and finally, an oral and appearance test.
"The two days between are going to be very grueling I suppose. We'll see what everybody's made of," said Sgt. Mollie Pitz, Saturday during the weapons qualification portion of the competition. Pitz, Indianapolis, a 38th Military Police Company officer, represented the 38th Infantry Division's Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion.
Command Sgt. Maj. John Watson, the division's senior enlisted soldier, said the competition was tough and tested troops' mettle and fortitude.
"It's nice to see soldiers from across the state competing at this level, giving it their best shot," said Watson. "That's really what it's all about, seeing them try hard at every level, and every competition along the way."
In the span of 36 hours, the troops tested themselves against the weather, the events and one another for approximately 23 hours. They battled 40- to 50-degree temperatures on Saturday, and lighting, thunder and rain during the eight-mile road march. They returned with drenched uniforms and squishy, wet boots. They then took on the Camp Atterbury obstacle course. They tested their weapons marksmanship skills and navigation skills against each other. They tested how many push-ups and sit-ups they could do. They ran two miles against each other.
"It's intense, uncomfortable, physically challenging and mentally challenging," said Sgt. Maj. Michael Lake, 38th ID operations sergeant major, who helped coordinate the competition.
Yet with all that, the troops' morale remained positive and upbeat.
"The Hoosier troops are doing great. Their spirit is high; their motivation is high," said Watson.
Indiana Army National Guard Sgt. Andrae Camp, who represented Camp Atterbury, said he was excited and motivated to be a part of an elite group to participate in a state-level NCO of the Year competition.
"It's an experience not too many people get to be involved in," said Camp, who is a team leader with Company B, 1st Battalion, 293rd Infantry.
In the end though, of the 17 soldiers, it came down to just four.
Indiana Army National Guard Spc. Brandon Hillman, who represented Recruiting and Retention, was the soldier runner-up, and Spc. Joshua Garrett, who represented Camp Atterbury, won Soldier of the Year.
Indiana National Guard Sgt. John Rosenbalm, who represented the 76th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, was the NCO runner-up, and Staff Sgt. Jerry Nenycz, Recruiting and Retention, won NCO of the Year.
"The guys that were here, they're pushing you the whole way. So anybody who could've won this thing definitely earned it," said Nencyz of Plymouth, Ind.
Nenycz and Garrett will represent Indiana at the regional competition in April at Camp Grayling, Mich.
"It's an honor," said Nenycz of representing Indiana in the regionals. "I know that every other person I will be facing is top dog in their state."