ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, MD, UNITED STATES
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. – Following three days of arduous competition that challenged seven soldier’s physical and mental abilities, the 20th Support Command named its Soldier and Non-Commissioned Officer of the Year here recently.
Two soldiers from the 71st Ordnance Group from Ft. Carson, Colo., Spc. Stephen Hair, and Staff Sgt. Jonathan Hornby pushed ahead of the competition earning the title Soldier of the Year and NCO of the Year respectively. Both will continue training then will compete in the Forces Command Soldier of the Year competition later this month.
The individual events soldiers competed in were: a hybrid of the Army Physical Fitness Test and new Army Physical Readiness Test, academic exam and essay, urban orienteering, weapons qualification, warrior tasks, an 8-mile ruck march, a board appearance and a mystery event that wasn’t announced until moments before executing it.
The competition began at 6 a.m. with the hybrid PT test. It wasn’t what the competitors expected.
“The rules were a little more stringent than what I expected,” said Hornby who was disqualified in the push-up category for momentarily bowing his back. “The push-up is the only event I wished I had practiced beforehand because it felt like I had to relearn how to do a push-up,” he said of that morning’s exercises.
During this one minute timed event, soldiers couldn’t have their elbows at 90 degree angles facing outward, away from their body, but instead had to have them beside their body as repetitions were counted, and couldn’t veer from a level position at any time.
The eventual winner, Hornby from military intelligence, was his unit’s NCO of the quarter winner and runner up for the year. As the alternate, he subbed in when the winner couldn’t compete. The Fountain, Colo., native was glad he did. Before winners were announced he talked about the timed mystery event – three different disassembled weapons systems combined in a box which opponents had to put together.
“I’m a weapons guy so I didn’t mind it. It would have been even better if we were blindfolded,” but he was quick to add, “with only one weapon. Regardless of the outcome, it was a good experience and so much better than sitting at a desk.”
One sponsor accompanied each competitor. Typically it’s the soldier’s immediate supervisor. Platoon Sgt. Daniel Chivers, an EOD technician from the 21st EOD, Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., paced back and forth while his soldier, Staff Sgt. Brandon Norton, was getting grilled by a board made up of sergeants major.
“He’s my guy. I want him to win,” he said. He gave Norton some advice. “I told him to study. The only reason he agreed to go is because there were going to be warrior events,” Chivers said.
“I studied most of the questions, but I could have done better,” Norton said as he came out from behind closed doors. “The board’s always been my weakest subject. I tend to get nervous whenever I’m in the spotlight. I’ve always been in the field and soldiering. I’ve never really focused on the board as much but I take pride in being able to shoot, PT, and do the day-to-day soldier tasks,” said Norton, who is from Muncie, Ind.
For most, the physical tasks left their mark. Sgt. Justin Elias, 52d Ordnance Group, Ft. Bragg, N.C., went home with several blisters between toes and said in a matter of fact manner that he’ll lose two toenails. That may have come from the 8.2 mile ruck march with full gear that added nearly 60 pounds to each hiker or the previous days approximate 8 mile orienteering event in which Soldiers had to find and record check points.
“After orienteering I felt I needed an IV,” said Sgt. Robert Foronda, 48th Chemical Brigade, Ft. Hood, Texas. “I was really dehydrated and I swear I drank four of those 17 ounce bottles,” said the Wailuku, Hawaii native, who admitted he was in bed by 8 p.m. that evening. The sergeant attributed his dehydration to not training with his body armor and plates in the heat of the day while back at his home station.
At the awards ceremony when asked by the commanding general what they had learned, each had a different response. But their answers led to learning more about themselves and their profession of arms.
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This work, CBRNE Soldiers of the Year chosen, by LTC Carol McClelland, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.