News: 593rd STB soldiers compete in adult spelling bee
Story by Sgt. Mark Miranda
SHELTON, Wash. – A member of the Choral Drones blew a pitch pipe to set the key, and the trio of spelling bee participants sang in three-part harmony for the word pronouncer: “Centaur; C-E-N-T-A-U-R. Centaur.”
As the spelling bee judges rang a bell to indicate correct spelling, the audience in the Shelton Civic Center filled the room with applause for the team fielded by Anna’s Bay Center for Music.
Teams showed up in all manner of dress. Among them, the Garage Floor Gals were in racing pit crew attire, the Noble Mason Orchard Bees were in bumblebee costumes, and the Thriae dressed as Greek goddesses. Two teams from Joint Base Lewis-McChord were in their Army dress uniforms, and added to the festive environment.
Soldiers from the 593rd Sustainment Brigade competed against 16 teams in “Spell-E-Bration,” an adult spelling bee in Shelton, Wash., May 11. The proceeds from entry fees benefit Sound Learning, an organization dedicated to educating adult learners to better succeed and contribute to society.
Sound Learning provides classroom instruction and personalized tutoring to Mason County residents who want to improve their reading, math, writing, computer and English language skills.
Two teams, one from the 9th Finance Company and another from Headquarters, Headquarters Company, represented the brigade’s Special Troops Battalion. Sponsors paid the $500 entry fee for the teams to compete.
Lt. Col. Douglas Levien, commander, 593rd STB, learned of the event through the West Olympia Rotary Club, and was able to field two teams with the amount of sponsors available.
The words used in the spelling bee were chosen from the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee list.
“We got the word list before coming to the spelling bee; it was around about 14 pages,” said Spc. Bradley Rassier, a financial management technician from Moorehead, Minn.
“The battalion knew this event was coming up, and to pick people for the team we held a spelling test for our soldiers. The ones who did well ended up on the teams competing,” said Sgt. 1st Class Chris Marillo, a platoon sergeant for HHC, 593rd STB.
Each team was comprised of three soldiers. In early rounds, team members consulted each other on the spelling of the word, and were allowed to write the word while coming to an agreement. During the spell-down, when only two teams remained, one speller was chosen for the winning word challenge.
For each of the rounds, the team’s designated speller had 30 seconds to begin spelling.
Before starting to spell, the designated spellers pronounced the word, so the judges knew the speller heard the correct word. After completing the word, the spellers pronounce the word again so the judges knew the speller had finished spelling.
“When we’re up there, we could request that the pronouncer say the word again, define it, give the word origin, or use it in a sentence. If your team started to spell a word, the designated speller could stop and start over, but can only re-start the spelling once,” said 1st Lt. Justin Richard, who led the team from HHC, 593rd STB.
“Part of the fun of this – the judges make everyone in the audience aware that they’re open to bribery,” Richard said.
The HHC, 593rd STB team did resort to presenting the judges’ panel their gift: an assault pack filled with Godiva chocolates.
As the event progressed, when the spellers misspelled a word, the pronouncer spelled it correctly, and then the team immediately dropped out of the contest.
“We [9th Finance] had the misfortune of getting eliminated on the word ‘candelabra’,” said Rassier.
“Talking it over up there with my team, we had four different versions of the word, so we had to pick one. I had a 25 percent shot at picking the right one, but I did not,” Rassier said.
The HHC team held on until the later rounds, but was eliminated on the word “toroidal.”
“Both teams came here together, and we joked beforehand that at least both of us wouldn’t be coming in last place,” said Spc. Adrian Chambliss, a human resources specialist from Milwaukee, Wis.
“Still, it was a fun time and everyone made us feel welcome. The event was for a good cause, so I was glad to be a part of it,” Chambliss said.
“I heard a lot of great feedback, and we were really happy to see the teams here from Fort Lewis participating. The audience just thought they were wonderful - they brought something special with them into this community,” said Shannon Klasell, an executive director with Sound Learning.
In the end, the Garage Floor Gals came through with the first-place win, beating the Noble Mason Orchard Bees. The Garage Floor Gals won gold medallions, with second and third-place winners receiving silver and bronze medals respectively. Last year’s winners, the Carismatics gave up custody of the annual trophy to the Garage Floor Gals.
Klasell said the Spell-E-Bration raised more than $10,000 for Sound Learning.