By Sgt. 1st Class Mike Hampton
Four Soldiers arrived at Fort Pickett to compete in the 2006 Soldier and NCO of the year competition; when it was all over, Pfc. Justin Hancock and Staff Sgt. Jonathan Whaley came away with top honors.
The two-day event, which began on Feb. 25, tested the Soldiers’ knowledge, skills and abilities across a wide range of topics. This included the Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT), reacting to nuclear blasts and a host of other common tasks aimed at assessing the Soldiers’ proficiency and understanding of the New Warrior Ethos.
The event culminated on Feb. 26, when each Soldier stood before a rigorous board, staffed by sergeants major from around the state, to test their knowledge on various topics ranging from military courtesy to battlefield operations.
This year’s competition was extremely close said Command Sgt. Maj. Robert W. Huffman, Virginia state command sergeant major.
“This was one of the closest competitions we’ve seen in quite some time. We really didn’t know until the very end who the winners were going to be.”
The four Soldiers who participated in the competition represented the best of the best throughout the state; they were selected from among some 7,000 Soldiers of the Virginia Army National Guard.
This year’s winners are both infantrymen of Company B, 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Brigade.
Hancock, the Soldier of the Year, hails from Charlotte, N.C., and is a second-year student at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Va. He completed basic and advance individual training at Fort Benning, Ga., in January 2005 and airborne school in February 2005.
“I am just proud to have been chosen Soldier of the Year. It is definitely an honor,” Hancock said.
Whaley, the NCO of the year, resides in Amherst, Va., and is a 14-year veteran. Among his awards are the Army Commendation and Army Achievement Medals, the Virginia Bronze Star and the Expert Infantry Badge.
He completed the rappel master’s course in December 2005 and air assault school in June 2004.
Whaley holds a bachelor of arts degree in psychology from the University of Virginia and has completed one year of law school at George Mason University.
With all that he has accomplished, Whaley considers this one of his finest.
“It is very much an honor to have been chosen top NCO, considering all the fine NCOs that are serving in our ranks, both home and abroad,” he said. “It is quite humbling.”