News: Troops compete for NCO, Soldier of the Year
Story by Spc. Andrew Ingram
FORT CARSON, Colo. – Eight soldiers showcased their mental, physical and tactical prowess during the Fort Carson Non-commissioned Officer and Soldier of the Year competition, May 7-9.
Pushing through a 12-mile foot march, navigating terrain using a map and compass, and enduring the trial of answering questions posed by six sergeants major, the junior soldiers and NCOs competed for the right to call themselves the best Fort Carson has to offer.
“It is a big event for us to showcase the soldiers and NCOs of the Year,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Brian Stall, senior enlisted leader, 4th Infantry Division and Fort Carson, who presided over the competition as the board president. “I think they can all attest they went through the ringer a little bit. Mother Nature threw a couple curve balls at them, but every one of them showcased outstanding talent.”
Stall announced the winners of the competition during a ceremony at the Foxhole on post, May 11. Private First Class Gregory Schollmeier, armor crewman, Company C, 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Inf. Div., distinguished himself as the soldier of the Year. Staff Sgt. Mitchell Howard, a financial management technician assigned to 230th Finance Company, 43rd Sustainment Brigade, narrowly beat out his competitors to be named the NCO of the Year.
“It’s a big honor to test yourself against your peers and come out successful,” said Howard. “The physical portion was really gratifying for me, knowing that I could still excel at all the tasks that set us apart as soldiers.”
Stall, a panel of sergeants major, and a team of graders from the Fort Carson Individual Readiness Training Company gauged the competitors’ capabilities during six events.
On the first day of competition, the soldiers and NCOs conducted the Army Physical Fitness Test in the morning to measure their physical readiness before conducting a land navigation course.
“The land navigation course was difficult because we did it during the day, and then turned around and had to do it in the dark that night,” Howard explained. “It was really tough to walk through the mud and the rain, through rough terrain in the dark with only a red lens flash light.”
The second day of the competition began with a 12-mile foot march through the Fort Carson training area, concluding at Range 49, where the competitors qualified with their assigned weapons.
“It rained (the day before), and I think the mud made the (foot) march a lot harder than any of us expected,” said Schollmeier.
After completing the foot march more than five minutes faster than his closest competitor, Schollmeier said his lead did not make him over-confident about the competition as a whole.
“At the end of the day, we are all trying to be the best here, and the competition is very stiff,” he said. “Somebody else may beat me on the next test, but I am not going to make it easy for them.”
That afternoon, the soldiers and NCOs competed in multiple practical exercises to gauge their knowledge and proficiency with common Warrior Tasks.
The IRT Company cadre graded the competitors on their ability to identify potential improvised explosive devices, assemble and reassemble multiple weapons, demonstrate the proper procedures to inform command elements of the location of enemy personnel and vehicles, and search detainees.
“This group of soldiers has impressed all of us,” said 1st Sgt. Kurt Dinsmore, senior enlisted leader of the IRT Company. “The events this year are really tough, and the soldiers have done very well.”
On the final day of competition, the junior enlisted soldiers took a written test as the NCOs donned their Army dress uniforms and reported to Stall and the panel of sergeants major.
The board asked questions ranging from military customs and courtesies to current events and military justice, testing the NCOs’ knowledge and ability to perform under stress.
“Honestly, I feel very relieved to be out of that room,” said Staff Sgt. William Warner, human intelligence analyst, Company B, Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 4th Inf. Div. “It was like no other board I had ever been in; the sergeants major were firing questions from every direction.
“It was intense, but this is the NCO of the Year competition, so I couldn’t have expected any less,” he said.
The competition ended with the NCOs taking the written test as the soldiers faced the sergeants major.
“The thing I was most impressed with during this competition was the knowledge demonstrated by these young soldiers,” said board member Command Sgt. Maj. Wardell Jefferson, senior enlisted leader, HHBN. “The NCOs came in and did a good job this morning; but this afternoon, some of these young soldiers outshined the NCOs.”
Jefferson said he hoped the competitors’ experiences during the three-day trial will inspire the best Fort Carson has to offer to continue improving and motivating their fellow soldiers to excel.
“The soldiers had to have intestinal fortitude to go through this process,” he said. “These boards are important; they motivate soldiers to get into the regulations, to learn, and to better themselves.”
Schollmeier and Howard will represent Fort Carson during the I Corps soldier and NCO of the Year Competition at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., in June.
“Winning always feels great,” Schollmeier said. “I know what a lot of my weaknesses are now, so I’m going to work on making those weaknesses strengths. Then I should be able to sweep the competition.”