Soldiers & Airmen of the year honored at banquet

By Spc. Nasir Stoner, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

The Kentucky Army National Guard Soldier of the Year recipients hold their KEEP Awards at the Soldier & Airmen of the Year Banquet in the Brown & Williamson Club in Louisville, Ky. March 3, 2018. The KEEP (Kentucky Enlisted Exceptional Performance) awards were passed from last year’s winners to this year’s Soldier, NCO and Senior NCO of the Year. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Nasir Stoner)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The Kentucky National Guard honored several outstanding Guardsmen at the 2018 Soldier & Airman of the Year Banquet in Louisville, Ky., March 3. The annual banquet brings together the winners of the both Army and Air Guard competitions to interact with each other, their peers and the command staff of the Kentucky Guard.

“This is an opportunity for us to show the recipients of the Airman and Soldier of the Year how much we appreciate all they do,” said Chief Master Sgt. Ray Dawson, State Command Chief for the Commonwealth. “This is a great event for us senior enlisted leaders and it shows that there is a team concept and the Adjutant General supports us one hundred percent, as well.”

Soldiers, Airmen and family members gathered in the Brown & Williamson Club at the University of Louisville for the event which is topped off with the presentation of the KEEP to those recognized. The KEEP stands for Kentucky Enlisted Exceptional Performance. The award exchanges hands from the previous year’s recipient to the next in a formal ceremony.

State Command Sgt. Maj. David Munden spoke highly of all of the Soldiers and Airmen who were recipients of the awards.

“They certainly worked hard to get to this point,” said Munden. “And they’re an inspiration for all of our Soldiers and Airmen who are coming up, and I’m just very proud of them all.”

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Staff Sgt. Daniel P. Keller of the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, the 2018 Air Guard NCO of the year said that he was honored to win the award and be a part of such a special unit.

“I think it’s just a testament to our leadership we have at the Squadron,” Keller said. “Going forward I hope we continue to grow the STS brand throughout Kentucky and continue to get better.”

For the Army Guard winners, the banquet is a way to recognize all of the hard work and training that went into preparing for the Soldier of the Year Competition. The intensity of the competition showed that the soldiers were well prepared for the tasks ahead of them both mentally and physically.

Sgt. Jordy Brewer from Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 149th Infantry, the 2018 Army NCO of the Year said that not every day is going to be a day where you feel like training, but to reach set goals you have to push through.

“A lot of these things in the military aren’t handed to you,” said Brewer who is currently training for the Army’s Best Ranger Competition in Fort Benning, Ga. “Yeah, I went to Ranger School and earned my tab but the credit goes to the long hours I put in training beforehand by myself.”

Brewer and every other award recipient agreed that an immense amount of training went into their preparation but they also credit their success to their units and peers for instilling motivation and confidence in them throughout the journey.

“It’s not always going to be a sunny day, but you just got to go to work,” said Brewer who is currently training for the Best Ranger Competition and the Regional Best Warrior Competition simultaneously. “It all starts with the man in the mirror.”

Senior Leaders also used the banquet to share parting guidance to the Soldier of the Year, Spc. Catherine Zembrodt and Brewer who will compete in the National Guard Region III Best Warrior Competition in Tennessee in April.

“This event is a celebration of this year’s phenomenal performances by our Guardsmen,” said Munden. “But also an example of how great traditions in the Kentucky Guard are sustained by exceptional individuals each year.”

This year’s winners:

Soldier of the Year – Spc. Catherine Zembrodt, 101st Airborne Division Main Command post Operational Detachment

NCO of the Year – Sgt. Jordy Brewer, Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 149th Infantry

Senior NCO of the Year – Sgt. 1st Class Anthony Hughes, 1st Battalion, 149th Infantry

Airman of the Year – Staff Sgt. Raul Rodriguez, 123rd Contingency Response Group

Air NCO of the Year – Staff Sgt. Daniel Keller, 123rd Special Tactics Squadron

Air Senior NCO of the Year – Senior Master Sgt. Kevin Seifert, 123rd Special Tactics Squadron

Also recognized were:

Kentucky Army National Guard Recruiting NCO of the Year – Staff Sgt. Anthony Pruitt

Kentucky Air National Guard First Sergeant of the Year – Senior Master Sgt. Michael Hager, 123rd Medical Group

Kentucky Air National Guard Honor Guard Member of the Year – Staff Sgt. Jaime Rosado, 123rd Logistics Readiness Squadron.