Outstanding Kentucky Guardsmen awarded during banquet

By Spc. Alan Royalty, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

The Kentucky Army National Guard Outstanding Soldier of the Year recipients hold their Kentucky Enlisted Exceptional Performance (KEEP) Awards at the Soldier & Airmen of the Year Banquet in the Brown & Williamson Club in Louisville, Ky. March 9, 2019. Each year, the previous year’s winners pass on the KEEP to the current Soldier, Non-commissioned Officer (NCO) and Senior NCO of the Year. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Alan Royalty)

 

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The Kentucky National Guard recognized and awarded several outstanding Guardsmen at the 2019 Soldier & Airman of the Year Banquet at the University of Louisville’s Brown and Williamson Club in Louisville, Ky., March 9. The annual ceremony honors the winners of the Kentucky Army National Guard’s Best Warrior Competition and outstanding enlisted Airmen from the Kentucky Air Guard.

Guardsmen and their families enjoyed a banquet, which includes a formal ceremony awarding winners and recognizing their exceptional dedication to their branch of service. Soldier and Airmen winners from 2018 joined current winners on stage to formally pass on the KEEP, an acrylic statue symbolizing the Kentucky Guardsman’s outstanding military service.

Of those giving praise to the winners, State Command Sgt. Maj. David Munden expressed the upmost regard for 2019’s award recipients. Munden attended each portion of the BWC and observed first-hand the physical and mental prowess of the competitors.

“These three winners were as good as we’ve seen in the past,” said Munden. “What we do in our event is pretty strenuous. It takes a pretty strong Soldier to complete what they did in October.”

To achieve the title of Soldier, Non-commissioned Officer (NCO), and Senior NCO of the year, Army Guardsmen must compete in the Best Warrior Competition (BWC), a grueling event in October that tests practical Soldiering skills, physical fitness, and mental toughness.

The Soldiers awarded during the banquet outperformed their peers during the competition, exhibiting extraordinary skill sets and unwavering mental resilience.

Army Staff Sgt. Jesse Mascoe with the 149th Infantry and winner of 2019 NCO of the Year is no stranger to the banquet stage. In 2015, he won the competition and was awarded a KEEP during the banquet ceremony, making 2019 his second Outstanding Soldier win of his enlisted career.

“I made a goal as enlisted to be an NCO, and prove I am the best NCO I can be,” said Mascoe. “Making the effort and putting the time into the competition is a really good feeling. It’s something anyone can do to make them a better Soldier and inspire others to do the same.”

The Kentucky Army National Guard Outstanding Soldier of the Year recipients hold their Kentucky Enlisted Exceptional Performance (KEEP) Awards at the Soldier & Airmen of the Year Banquet in the Brown & Williamson Club in Louisville, Ky. March 9, 2019. Each year, the previous year’s winners pass on the KEEP to the current Soldier, Non-commissioned Officer (NCO) and Senior NCO of the Year. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Alan Royalty)

While the banquet honors Soldiers and Airmen for exceptional performance, behind every good Guardsmen are their loved ones and mentors. Army Sgt. Tyler Reckner with the 2113 Transportation Company attributes his success as 2019 Soldier of the Year to his training mentor.

“Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas, I didn’t want to let him down,” said Reckner. “The encouragement he gave me throughout the whole process really motivated me.”

Immediately following the formal ceremony, the winners were presented a unique and very appropriate additional award: wearable Spartan helmets. Each bronze helmet came complete with a leather interior cap and chinstrap. Once the 2019 winners donned their new headgear, they stood side by side and demonstrated the true fighting spirit of a Kentucky Guardsman.

“Wherever you go, you see a Kentucky Soldier leading from the front,” said Munden.

 

This year’s Army winners:

Soldier of the Year – Sgt. Tyler Reckner, 2113th Transportation Company

NCO of the Year – Staff Sgt. Jesse Mascoe, 1st Battalion, 149th Infantry

Senior NCO of the Year – Sgt. 1st Class Donnie Saunders, 299th Chemical Company

Also recognized were:

Kentucky Army National Guard Recruiting NCO of the Year – Staff Sgt. Joshua Varney

Kentucky Air National Guard First Sergeant of the Year – Master Sgt. John Posten, 123rd Maintenance Squadron

Kentucky Air National Guard Honor Guard Member of the Year – Tech. Sgt. Jeff Bryant