April 3, 2009

Top Virginia Guard Soldier, NCO chosen for Year of the NCO

By Sgt. Andrew H. Owen
Virginia Guard Public Affairs

FORT PICKETT, Va. — Soldiers and noncommissioned officers of the Virginia Army National Guard gathered at Fort Pickett to compete in the commonwealth’s Soldier of the Year and NCO of the Year competition March 28 and 29.

Sgt. 1st Class Maurice Brown of Hopewell was selected as the Virginia Army National Guard NCO of the Year and Spc. Jennifer Chisholm of Hampton took top honor as the Virginia Guard Soldier of the Year. Brown also won the competition at the state and regional level in 2007.

Sgt. 1st Class Maurice Brown

Sgt. 1st Class Maurice Brown from Maneuver Training Center tests the fuse of an M18A Claymore during the Warrior tasks portion of the NCO of the Year Competition. Brown, the 2009 Virginia Army National Guard NCO of the Year, won the 2007 NCO of the Year competition and made it all the way to the National Guard's overall NCO of the Year competition. (Photo by Sgt. Andrew H. Owen, Virginia Guard Public Affairs) Click HERE for a high resolution version of this photo.

Over the weekend, nine Soldiers and NCOs competed against one another for the title of Soldier of the Year and NCO of the Year for the state of Virginia. The Soldiers and NCOs were tested on their individual Warrior knowledge, marksmanship, physical strength and ability, and an appearance board.

The Soldiers started the day Saturday with an Army Physical Fitness Test to gauge the physical strength and endurance of the participants. Several of the Soldiers scored over 300 on the extended scale.

Following the APFT, the candidates demonstrated their marksmanship skills via the EST 2000, an indoor simulated M-16 range. Two of them qualified marksman (23-29 targets), two qualified sharpshooter (30-35 targets), and five qualified expert (36-40 targets).

After completing the rifle qualification they were tested on their knowledge of common warrior tasks. They were tested on employing a claymore mine, reacting to unexploded ordnance, performance of several first aid tasks and several other key Soldier skills.

On Sunday the warriors donned their Class A uniforms and were sent up against a board of sergeants major where they were critiqued on their military appearance and bearing. They were also asked a series of pre-selected questions testing their knowledge of military justice, military history, weapons systems and current events.

Spc. Jennifer Chisholm, the 2009 Virginia Army National Guard Soldier of the Year

Spc. Jennifer Chisholm of Hampton, Va., is tested on her knowledge of terrain features on a military map before being selected as the 2009 Virginia Army National Guard Soldier of the Year. Chisholm is an armorer for the headquarters company of the 529th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion. (Photo by Sgt. Andrew H. Owen, Virginia Public Affairs) Click HERE for a high resolution version of this photo.

Representing Virginia in the NCO of the Year will be an important responsibility for Brown, especially during the Year of the NCO. “Having the Year of the NCO is good recognition and it’s good to put it out there to let people know how important NCOs are,” said Brown.  “However, I think we have always been here and always been doing what we’re supposed to.”

According to Brown the competition will help young Soldiers see that becoming NCO of the Year is an obtainable goal in their careers. “You have to keep progressing,” said Brown. “It’s a motivation thing for young Soldiers. As you go through the ranks you still have to be on top of your game; you can’t slack off.”

To be eligible to compete in the competitions the candidates must first meet a series of pre-requisites. They must have qualified as an expert with their individual weapon (36 out of 40 targets),  scored a minimum of 70 points on each event during the Army Physical Fitness Test, and must meet the height and weight standards of the U.S. Army.

Events like this at the state level are important for Soldiers and NCOs, according to Command Sgt. Maj. Carl Holcomb, Virginia Army National Guard command sergeant major. This will prepare them for the next rung and show them what they can expect to compete against at the regional level.

Ten command sergeants major made up the board that added up all of the points and reviewed the packets to decide the winners. In addition to their duties on the board, the senior enlisted leaders, along with other NCOs, were cadre for the day’s events.

The winners of the competition will move on to the regional competition May 17-19 at Fort Pickett. There they will compete against the winners of other states in the region.

“We stand a good chance of taking it all with these two Soldiers we are sending,” said Holcomb. “It’s nothing that can’t be done.”

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