U.S. Army Europe GIs compete to be soldier, NCO of the year
Stars and Stripes August 29, 2009
HEIDELBERG, Germany — There was a Hancock, Murray, Micek, Payne and Spain. And also a Yang, Rodriguezperez and a Singratsomboune.
As if to showcase the diversity of force, U.S. Army Europe’s contenders for soldier and noncommissioned officer of the year, came in the variety pack: Asian-American, Hispanic-American, African-American and female.
But that’s not why they were standing at attention this week at a Heidelberg luncheon to announce the winners of the competition.
“It started a long time ago at the company level. They were all soldiers of the month, soldiers of the quarter,” said USAREUR Command Sgt. Maj. Ralph Beam. “They percolate up.”
The 11 overachievers underwent a four-day grueling test of skills to determine who did best — and who’d go on to the Army-wide “Best Warrior” competition.
First off, their cell phones and watches were confiscated.
“Talk about lost people,” Beam said during the ceremony at the Village Pavilion on Patrick Henry Village, which was attended by 450 soldiers.
They adjusted, though they never knew what task they’d have to perform next. During the competition earlier this month, the 11 contenders shot weapons, tossed hand grenades, cleared buildings, did push-ups, answered essay questions and marched all over Grafenwöhr. Then they marched some more.
“They probably walked 80 to 90 kilometers (about 50-56 miles),” Beam said. “They were lucky if they got two hours of sleep a night.”
“I was getting kind of cranky,” said Sgt. 1st Class Aaron Beckman.
Cranky or not, Beckman, a combat engineer and instructor at the Joint Multinational Training Command, won USAREUR NCO of the Year.
Spc. Daniel Micek of the 21st Theater Sustainment Command was named Soldier of the Year.
The two will go on to the Army-wide competition at Fort Lee, Va., in late September.
Last year, the “Best Warriors” were both Reserve soldiers. But USAREUR soldiers won two years in a row, said Sgt. 1st Class Steven Stanfill: NCO in 2005 and Soldier in 2006. Stanfill has been in charge of the USAREUR event for several years.
Not all commands send a competitor, and the numbers vary annually with unit mergers and deployments, Stanfill said.
“When you’re deployed, you’re focused on other things,” he said.
All the USAREUR competitors this year — five NCOs and six soldiers — came from the JMTC, the 21st TSC, the 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, the 172nd Infantry Brigade and the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team.
Beckman said the toughest part for him was the pressure of being the highest-ranking NCO in the field, which meant, he thought, that he should know the most.
“If you’re not better than your soldiers, you’re not doing your job,” he said in a video shown at the lunch.
Beam said scoring meant that the two winners had the highest scores in numerous segments and could have come in no lower than third in any one.
So even though Beckman did fine on his physical training test, he’s vowed to improve, he said, despite a natural aptitude for eating.
“I got a body by DFAC,” he said.