News: XVIII Airborne Corps names NCO, Soldier of the Year
Story by Spc. Paul Holston
FORT BRAGG, N.C. — With three days of grueling, early mornings and late night events, to include tests that challenged soldiers physically and mentally, the XVIII Airborne Corps Non-commissioned Officer and Soldier of the Year competition ran its course weeding out the best represented soldiers.
Sgt. Jason T. Thomas and Pfc. Jeremy Shivick, both from 1st Platoon, Company C, 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, were recognized as the XVIII Abn. Corps Non-commissioned Officer and Soldier of the Year during the award ceremony at Sports USA, April 5.
“The NCO and Soldier of the Year competition is a series of tasks and events that have been assigned to us as competitors to compete and see who is the best,” said Sgt. Dennis C. Keyes, who represented the Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, XVIII Abn. Corps.
Twenty-one soldiers and non-commissioned officers, representing each subordinate unit of the XVIII Abn. Corps, competed in the Corps’ Non-commissioned Officer and Soldier of the Year competition April 2-4.
“The purpose of this competition is to find the best representative for XVIII Abn. Corps to compete in the Forces Command NCO and Soldier of the Year competition, then on to the Department of the Army, whoever wins that competition represents the Army’s NCO and Soldier of the Year,” said Spc. Michael C. Lauritzen, who represented the 716th Military Police Battalion, 16th Military Police Brigade out of Fort Campbell, Ky. “It’s a pretty great accomplishment.”
Throughout the three-day event, soldiers and NCOs were challenged and tested in their physical fitness, basic soldier skills, as well as their confidence and motivation. Challenges included an Army Physical Fitness Test, an interview board, a written exam, M4 rifle qualification, urban map orienteering and a weapons event.
“This competition was good at testing all of us to be all-around soldiers,” said Keyes, a Jackson, Mich. native. “When you come to a competition like this, you really find yourself in an all-around competition. You don’t just focus on one thing; it’s more like a jack of all trades.”
For one competitor, she faced a different challenge in addition to the others, being the only female competing.
“Sometimes you are the only female in a competition, so I got used to it,” said Pfc. Jillian C. Wilson, who represented the 108th Quartermaster Company, 49th Quartermaster Group out of Fort Lee, Va. “It’s all about what prior training you had before to coming here, especially at this level.”
Wilson, who hails from San Diego, Calif., added that it didn’t matter at all, that whether male or female, every soldier is trained the same way.
“There’s nothing like throwing yourself into a crazy competition to see how well you can do, you learn a lot,” said Wilson. “I always like to give myself a challenge.”
Even though all 21 competitors were selected as the best out of their respective unit, only one NCO and soldier could win the Corps level competition.
“I’m grateful for being here, glad that my leadership had the confidence in me to compete at this level,” said Lauritizen, a St. Joseph, Mo. native who placed first runner up in the Corps’ Soldier of the Year. “Even as a specialist, I don’t have to be a sergeant to encourage my peers and motivate them. One of the things that you want to do is encourage people to push themselves. I encourage anybody for this opportunity because whether you win or lose its career defining. Even if it’s not at this level, go ahead and challenge yourself that way you can get something out of it and pass it on to somebody in your life.”
In the end, competitors of both competitions cherished their hard work as a learning experience.
“It’s huge to me to represent the XVIII Abn. Corps and I’m proud of what I’ve done I so far,” said Keyes, who placed fourth in the Corps’ NCO of the Year. “Win or lose, I’ve given 110% and nobody can ask for anymore of what I’ve done. I’m going to be a sergeant regardless whether I win or not, so the only motivation I’ve received is the motivation I can find from other people and from those around me.”
Up next, Thomas and Shivick will move on to compete in the FORSCOM competition, where they will once again be tested to see if they will advance to the final DA level, with prospects of becoming the Army’s Non-commissioned Officer and Soldier of the Year.