News: I Corps 2012 best soldiers, noncommissioned officers compete for shot at FORSCOM
Story by Sgt. Mark Miranda
JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. – The I Corps Soldier and Non-commissioned Officer of the Year competition took place on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, June 5-7.
Straining to make the most out of the few seconds left of the pushup portion of the Army Physical Fitness Test, Sgt. Dariusz Krzywonos finished quickly at the command of “stop!” and stood up almost satisfied: one repetition shy of a maximum score.
At almost 43, Krzywonos was the oldest I Corps soldier and Non-commissioned Officer of the Year competitor, going up against five of his peers from various brigades across Joint Base Lewis-McChord, one from Fort Carson, Colo. and one from Fort Irwin, Calif.
Though standing six feet, six inches tall, Krzywonos’ demeanor is rather humble; he has the confidence of a man who has taken the time to prepare his mind and body for the challenges this competition has laid out before him.
June 5-7, he got his chance to represent his unit, 2nd Battalion, 12th Field Artillery Regiment, 4th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. The junior enlisted soldier representing 4th SBCT., 2nd Inf. Div. was Spc. Spencer Dahlheimer, competing against eight of his peers.
“It was a good competition overall,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Daniel Verbeke, I Corps’ current acting command sergeant major, who presided over the boards held on day three of the competition.
“This year, we focused on the Army Warrior Tasks to make that part of the competition more challenging than last year. It’s quite impressive when you think that there are about 30,000 soldiers at JBLM, and these 17 competitors represent the top soldiers at their level,” Verbeke said.
The first day of competition, soldiers and non-commissioned officerss were tested on the APFT and proficiency with both day and night land navigation. Both Spc. Andrew Lester, a combat medic, and Pfc. Gregory Schollmeier, an armor crewman from Fort Irwin, had strong starts, each scoring at least the maximum 100 points in each event: pushups, situps and two-mile run.
An extended scale for the APFT allowed competitors to earn points for additional exercise repetitions or running speed, allowing Lester and Schollmeier to score above 300 points.
“I run a lot, but swimming keeps me in shape. I almost went for the Olympic trials in 2008,” Lester said.
Day two had both soldiers and non-commissioned officers taking a written exam with questions regarding leadership, non-commissioned officer evaluation reports and counseling – subject matter currently taught in the Army’s Warrior Leader Course.
The competition then moved on to a weapons qualification range to score competitors on their marksmanship capabilities. Dahlheimer, a sniper infantryman led the event for the Soldiers followed by Lester and Spc. Sheldon Shorty, a wheeled vehicle mechanic representing 17th Fires Brigade.
Of the seven other non-commissioned officers, Krzywonos finished the second day just behind Sgt. Robert Collier, a military policeman with 66th Military Police Company, who scored well at both the range and on the exam.
Six lanes set up for the AWT tested each competitor on their abilities in areas such as treating casualties, weapons maintenance and reacting to contact. This year’s competition added Army combatives to the mix. Combined with the stress of fierce competition, the road march between testing stations added physical exhaustion.
Among the NCOs, Collier scored highest on AWT, but it was Krzywonos’ flawless performance at the sergeants major board the following day that secured the NCO of the Year win for Krzywonos.
“I took on the task of reading the Army study guide into a voice recorder, a project that took a long time to complete. I have a 45-minute commute between work and home, so I would listen to those recordings over the course of the last four months,” Krzywonos said.
At 22, Krzywonos joined the U.S. Marine Corps, serving four years as an assault amphibious vehicle crewman, deploying to the Persian Gulf in 1991 and to Somalia. He earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Business Economics from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2003.
Krzywonos came back to military service joining the Army in October 2010, and soon earned a spot on the Commandant’s List at the Warrior Leaders Course.
“I intend to stay in the Army for the long haul. I hope to be a useful asset each and every day. I look forward to opportunities to contribute and to lead, and I’ll use the experience of this competition to become a better leader,” Krzywonos said.
Lester won the I Corps competition for Soldier of the Year with consistent high scores.
A healthcare specialist assigned to 520th Area Support Medical Company, 62nd Medical Brigade, Lester had the second-highest APFT, sergeants major board and range scores among the competing soldiers. Lester also earned points for the written exam and his skill in land navigation pushed him to a first place win over the other junior-enlisted soldiers in the competition.
“I was an Army brat, but aside from my family a lot of the soldiers in my unit really helped me get ready for this competition,” Lester said.
Lester and Krzywonos were announced as the winners of the competition at a luncheon at the 593rd Sustainment Brigade’s Dining Facility, June 8. They will compete next at the U.S. Army Forces Command level in July, traveling to Fort Bragg, N.C., to represent I Corps.
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