TAEGU, South Korea — Army Staff Sgt. Patrick O’Connell hasn’t told his dad the good news, but he plans on doing it soon.

O’Connell, a chemical decontamination squad leader with Camp Hialeah’s 61st Chemical Company, was named Noncommissioned Officer of the Year earlier this month by the 20th Area Support Group, a logistics unit headquartered at Camp Henry, Taegu.

The company is part of the 23rd Chemical Battalion, a component of the 20th ASG.

To win the distinction, O’Connell first edged out fellow candidates through a series of examining boards in which senior sergeants ask questions on a wide range of military topics.

His selection brought “a lot of congratulations from my peers, a lot of ‘atta-boys,’ so to speak, from my superiors,” said O’Connell, of Terre Haute, Ind..

But O’Connell wasn’t the only member of the 20th to win recognition recently.

The unit gave its KATUSA of the Year award to Sgt. Lee Tae-ho, a chemical decontamination specialist with the battalion’s 62nd Chemical Company at Camp Long, Wonju. KATUSAs are Korean Army soldiers assigned to the U.S. Army.

Like O’Connell, Lee went through rigorous boards.

“The most difficult thing was the language barrier,” said Lee. “I’m not so good at English, so every time I go to the board I need to ask to board members, ‘Could you repeat the question?’”

“He’s a very humble person,” said 62nd Chemical Company’s 1st Sgt. Angel Ortiz.

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