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Staff Sgt. Thomas A. Bean Jr., far right, Pfc. Robert A. Wallace, center, and Cpl. Kim Jung-tak, partially obscured, accept congratulations after an award ceremony Monday at Yongsan Garrison, South Korea.
Staff Sgt. Thomas A. Bean Jr., far right, Pfc. Robert A. Wallace, center, and Cpl. Kim Jung-tak, partially obscured, accept congratulations after an award ceremony Monday at Yongsan Garrison, South Korea. (T.D. Flack / S&S)

YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — Being a good soldier paid off — literally — during a ceremony Monday at Yongsan’s Dragon Hill Lodge in which the 8th Army named its top soldiers.

Staff Sgt. Thomas A. Bean Jr. with C Battery, 1/38th Field Artillery, 2nd Infantry Division, was named the best noncommissioned officer and Pfc. Robert A. Wallace of 46th Transportation Company, 19th Theater Support Command earned soldier of the year. Cpl. Kim Jung-tak with the 16th Medical Logistics Battalion, 18th Medical Command, was named the top Korean Augmentee to the U.S. Army, or KATUSA.

In addition to bragging rights, the soldiers were swamped with gifts — including about $2,000 each in cash and gift certificates — from the organizations sponsoring the luncheon, as well as round-trip tickets to the States.

Wallace and Bean will travel to Washington in September to compete against the best soldiers in the Army, and all three will attend an upcoming Association of the U.S. Army convention.

Senior leaders, including 8th Army commander Lt. Gen. Charles C. Campbell and Command Sgt. Major Barry Wheeler, congratulated all of the finalists for their hard work.

Campbell said the accomplishments represent “a team success.”

The soldiers spent months preparing to compete, and when they stepped in front of the selection board they represented the very best, Campbell said.

The soldiers were judged on their uniforms and military bearing, ability to communicate, tactical and technical knowledge, land navigation, first aid, drill and ceremony, counseling, military history and other areas.

Bean, who’s been in the Army for 14 years, said he started preparing for the competition in March.

“It’s crazy. It’s overwhelming,” Bean said after the ceremony. “I’m at a loss for words right now.”

But when asked how he would do in the Department of the Army competition in September, Bean — from C Battery, 1/38th Field Artillery, 2nd Infantry Division — was confident.

“I’m going to kick its ass,” he said of the competition.

Other finalists ...

NCO of the Year:

Staff Sgt. Paoul E. Kunnas

Sgt. Mandrill A. Demps

Sgt. Woo Jin-kim

Soldier of the Year:

Spc. Brian P. Murdock

Spc. Michael S. Pichette

Pfc. Christopher W. Corwin

KATUSA of the Year:

Sgt. Choi Yong-gun

Cpl. Kim Yong-jae

Pfc. Sing Pil-doo

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