GREENVILLE, Ky. –
Twenty-four Soldiers representing each brigade in the commonwealth went head-to-head to determine who would come out at this year’s top Soldier, Non-Commissioned Officer and Senior Non-Commissioned Officer at Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center Nov. 9-12.
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This year’s format included some of the new technology that was implemented this year. Moving targets were used during the weapons skills portion and night vision goggles were implemented for a portion of the competition.
“We did throw in a couple new additional events this year,” said State Command Sgt. Maj Jesse Withers. “The stress shoot was a little bit different with the implementation of the robotic target tree as well as implementing night vision goggles into our competition. As we look forward to future competitions, we're going to take a look at how we can continue to innovate.”
Marathon Targets provided targets that moved laterally on a set of wheels to raise the level of difficulty for the Soldiers stress shoot portion of the competition.
The night vision was incorporated as a special Army Warrior Task where the competitors were required to navigate a completely dark room, locate their fully disassembled M4 rifle, then reassemble it using only NVGs.
For three and a half days, the Soldiers were graded off on a total of 16 events that included an Army Combat Fitness test, an obstacle course, movement and grenade tactics, weapons breakdown and a grueling 12-mile ruck march.
The ruck march is the one event that tests the limits of the Solders mental and physical toughness.
21-year old Spc. Garner Offutt from Bravo Battery, 1-623rd Field Artillery, who was selected as the Solider of the year, admitted that the ruck march was the hardest of the events for him.
“The ruck was the most mentally challenging,” said Offutt. “I've done a lot of rucks, but with the hills here, it was it was definitely pushing my body to the limit. I'm glad that I had Pvt. Stevens and Sgt. Lee with me rucking, helping to keep me on pace.”
He added that the toughest physical event was the night land navigation due to the terrain and plants with thorns snagging and scraping his arms and legs.
To put on the yearly event, it takes a lot of planning and preparation but the Soldiers of the 238th Regional Training Institute do so flawlessly.
“This week has been very busy,” said 1st Sgt. Will Sewell, operations non-commissioned officer for the 238th. “There are a lot of pieces moving to make it all it all come together. It really takes all the brigades coming together as a one team to make sure it’s synchronized to pull off the competition for these troops.”
Each of the Soldiers pushed themselves as well as each other during each of the events. Even when the weather changed from warm to cold and the snow stated falling on the last day.
“They were giving it their all,” said Sewell. “They're pushed to their limits and kept their spirits high. I mean, even though sometimes they might have been miserable and wanted to give up, they never did. They continued to push through. We have some great Kentucky National Guard Soldiers and NCOs here.”
Overall the week was a success and with this year’s competition over, Withers has one piece of advice for the next round of Soldiers who will be chosen to represent their brigades come next year.
“Be prepared” he said.
The winners were: Soldier of the Year: Spc. Garner Offutt with the Bravo Battery, 1-623rd Field Artillery, 138th Field Artillery Brigade; Non-Commissioned Officer of the Year: Staff Sgt. Jared Zerhusen from the 617th Military Police Company, 149th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade; Senior Non-Commissioned Officer of the Year: Sgt. 1st. Class Jonathan Senters from Charlie Company, 1-149th Infantry Battalion.
These warriors will move on to the regional competition next year at Fort Stewart, Ga.