News: USARAK Tabs New Soldier and NCO of The Year
Story by Staff Sgt. Matthew Winstead
JOINT BASE ELMENDORF RICHARDSON, Alaska - After five days of rigorous testing and performance evaluations, two soldiers from the Fort Wainwright-based 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division took top honors as the U.S. Army Alaska NCO and Soldier of the Year May 11 at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.
Staff Sgt. Jerrell Cronan, of the 184th Military Intelligence Company, Brigade Troops Battalion, 1-25th; and Spc. Jason Beckman of B Company, 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment, 1-25th, narrowly edged the competition after completing 13 different events in the USARAK Arctic Warrior Challenge.
The events of the Warrior Challenge were designed to test the candidates in all facets of basic Soldiering and challenge them both mentally and physically, according to the event's organizers.
The challengers took on events like land navigation in day and night conditions, rifle qualification and stress shoot, hand-to-hand combat and a rigorous obstacle course as well as written evaluations and live events like facing down aggressive role-playing reporters.
"This wasn't like previous challenges where we knew a winner pretty early out," U.S. Army Alaska Command Sgt. Maj. David Turnbull said. "This was a very close competition this year. At any given moment there were just a few points separating the top candidates, making it too close to call until the last minute."
Turnbull said the entire collection of candidates presented a strong and competent showing throughout the week, leaving every single applicant as a potential winner until the end of the competition.
Beckman and Cronan were presented with their awards and given Army Achievement Medals for their outstanding performance at the Warrior Challenge closing ceremony.
"This was simply fantastic," Cronan said. "It was challenging and a good learning experience. I'm looking forward to mentoring my Soldiers back home for the challenge next year."
"This was an excellent refresher for some of the skills we don't always get to stay on top of," Beckman said. "Some of the things they tested us on I consider use-or-lose skills and it took a minute to knock the dust off. It was definitely challenging."
Beckman and Cronan will move on to the U.S. Army Pacific Command Soldier and NCO of the Year compeition in Hawaii and if selected could compete at the Army-level Soldier and NCO of the Year competition.