Soldier of year competition gets “back to basics”

Story by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs

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Staff Sgt. Nicholas Anglin with the 201st Engineer Battalion appears before the board during the 2014 Kentucky National Guard Soldier of the Year competition in Greenville, Ky., Nov. 17, 2013. In addition to the board, Anglin and 13 fellow Guardsmen competed in such events as weapons qualification and land navigation over the three-day weekend. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

GREENVILLE, Ky. — Many basic Soldier skills are not always your everyday tasks; fieldstripping an M-16, searching a detainee, details of drill and ceremony. This knowledge is part of what should be in every Soldier’s toolbox and to a select few each year, these tasks become a competition.  All combined, the proficiency of such tasks, along with marksmanship and physical fitness, push some to become the best of the best.

On the track, at the range and in the fields of the Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center, 14 Kentucky National Guardsmen put their skills to the test in the 2014 Soldier of the Year competition, Nov. 15-17.

To see more photos from the event, click here.

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Spc. Benjamin Joynt prepares to begin his push-ups during an Army Physical Fitness Test as part of the 2014 Kentucky National Guard Soldier of the Year competition in Greenville, Ky., Nov. 16, 2013. The APFT began an event-filled day for the competitors that took them from the gym to the range to the fields to the classrooms of the Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

“Getting back to the basics of soldiering, that’s what the Soldier of the Year Competition is all about,” said State Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas Chumley Jr., who oversaw his first competition as the State Command Sergeant Major.

“I wanted to challenge them, I wanted to challenge them mentally, physically and spiritually. When they leave here, I wanted them to feel like they’ve earned something,” he added.

From the moment competitors arrived, the pressure was on. Soldiers, NCOs and Senior NCOs alike were forced to rely on their training and experience as the weekend tested their abilities as an American Soldier.

The Guardsmen first sat down for the written tests and essay questions to start the weekend out quietly on Friday evening. But before the sun rose on Saturday, the quiet was gone as each Soldier completed the Army Physical Fitness Test, then were off to the range for individual weapon qualifications. When the last round was fired, they traded their rifles for compasses and maps and negotiated the Muhlenburg County terrain in a challenging land navigation exercise.

While in the field, a variety of Army Warrior Tasks awaited each Soldier to test other skills.

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Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Gray with the 238th Regiment loads a magazine into his M-16 during the 2014 Kentucky National Guard Soldier of the Year competition in Greenville, Ky., Nov. 16, 2013. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

“The weekend was jammed packed for sure,” said Owenton, Ky., native, Staff Sgt. Nicholas Anglin with the 201st Engineer Battalion who was named NCO of the Year for the competition.

Spc. Christopher DeLeon with the 2123rd Transportation Company from Richmond, Ky., was the runner-up in 2012.  After a year of working hard, studying and increasing his PT, DeLeon returned to capture the Soldier of the Year title this year.

“I feel accomplished, like I didn’t let anyone down,” he said. “I made them proud and I’m proud of myself. This feels great, it’s an awesome feeling.”

“I will take everything I have learned from Soldier of the Year and apply it to my 2123rd Soldiers and maybe be a sponsor for another Soldier to come here next year and train him to keep the reign of the 2123rd,” he added.

Chumley said he has been involved with similar competitions at various levels in his career and that the Soldiers inspire him each time.  This year’s Soldier of the Year competition was just another reason why he loves doing his job.

“This weekend has been outstanding,” said Chumley. “The Soldiers here inspire me with their life stories and how the Kentucky National Guard has set them up with a good foundation and solid leadership skills. I’m just amazed every time we have one of these.”

2014 Soldier of the Year winners:

Soldier of the Year – Spc. Christopher DeLeon, 2123rd Transportation Co.  from Richmond, Ky.

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NCO of the Year – Staff Sgt. Nicholas Anglin, HSC 201st Engineers from Owenton, Ky.

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Senior NCO of the Year – 1st Sgt. Matthew Roberge, 1/149th Infantry from Nicholasville, Ky.

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