Troops tackle tests in quest to be USAREUR soldier, NCO of the year
Stars and Stripes August 10, 2006
GRAFENWÖHR, Germany — Nine soldiers crawled through mud, ruck-marched, tossed grenades and performed other military tasks over three days this week in an effort to earn U.S. Army Europe Soldier of the Year and Noncommissioned Officer of the Year awards.
The first two days of the contest included a written exam, essay, rifle qualification, ruck march, aerial reconnaissance and a mystery task in which candidates guided a group of lost, non-English-speaking German soldiers back from behind enemy lines.
By Wednesday, one of the NCOs dropped out with a rib injury. The remaining eight had to perform a range of military tasks including communication; unexploded ordnance identification; reporting on enemy forces; using nuclear, biological and chemical gear; treating an abdominal injury; moving under fire, and laying Claymore mines.
Sgt. 1st Class Tim Carpenter, 37, of the 7th Army Noncommissioned Officer Academy, supervised the hand grenade lane.
“They have to identify five out of six kinds of hand grenade and engage five targets,” said the Kitts Hill, Ohio, native.
Candidates had to engage various troop targets in a forest and lob grenades into a foxhole, through a window and into a bunker, Carpenter added.
One of the NCOs competing on the hand grenade lane, Sgt. Shawn Walbeck, 26, of Pasadena, Maryland, serves with the 13th Military Police Company at Camp Darby, Italy.
“I’m glad this is the last day,” he said. “The ruck march last night really took a toll on me. It was 15 kilometers (nine miles). They had time limits and everybody came in close to the time limit or over it. We were carrying close to 60 pounds and it seemed like there was always a slight incline,” he said.
The young soldier said he had not thrown a grenade since basic training.
“I just hope my baseball arm will pull me through,” he said before taking cover behind a pile of sticks and leaping up, under Carpenter’s close watch, to lob a grenade through a window cut in a piece of plywood propped up in the woods.
While Walbeck was busy with the grenades, Spc. John Emmett, 20, a Soldier of the Year candidate, was doing the movement lane, which involved high and low crawls and three-to-five-second rushes against enemy positions.
The Greenwood, Ind., native, who serves with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 21st Theater Support Command out of Kaiserslautern, said he was physically and mentally tired from the competition.
“It’s draining, but you try to stay as sharp and motivated as you can and finish strong,” said the muddy soldier as purple smoke wafted past a bunker he had just stormed.
USAREUR will announce the recipients of the honors at a ceremony in Heidelberg on Friday, officials said.