By Army Sgt. Darron Salzer
National Guard Bureau
ARLINGTON, Va. (8/23/12) - In June 2005, the selection process for the Soldier and noncommissioned officer of the year for the Army National Guard was a very different process.
Known then as the Soldier and NCO of the Year Competition the regional winners from throughout the Army Guard had to then compete at the First Army level, then again at U.S. Army Forces Command, before reaching the Department of the Army competition.
For Command Sgt. Maj. John Gipe, who in 2005 was the command sergeant major of the Army Guard, that process seemed to need a revamping.
Since the Army National Guard was a three-star command, just like First Army, Gipe said that as he watched the Guard competition unfold in 2006, it didn’t make sense to him why Army Guard Soldiers had to compete at another three-star command to advance to the DA level.
“But more importantly, as the largest organization within the Army, I felt that it was important to the Soldiers of the Army National Guard to have their own [Noncommissioned Officer] and Soldier of the Year Competition … within our own organization,” said Gipe, who now serves as the senior enlisted advisor for the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs.
He approached the Army Reserve command sergeant major to see if there was any interest in creating a similar competition within the Army Reserve, as they too had to send their Soldiers through First Army as well.
The two sergeants major were in agreement and they approached the sergeant major of the Army about changing how the Army Guard and Army Reserve competed.
Gipe also wanted to revamp the competition itself, in addition to the process that Soldiers and noncommissioned officers competed.
At the time, the competition included Soldier tasks, an Army Physical Fitness Test and weapons qualifications, but it in no way compared to the Army’s new competition, which was much more physically and mentally demanding.
“I knew what I wanted to do,” he said about the change. “I wanted to make sure our guys went in to this [Department of the Army] competition knowing they are the best prepared and the best trained they can be – and if they won our competition, they can win any competition.”
Gipe’s next step was a call to the Army National Guard’s Warrior Training Center at Fort Benning, Ga.
“I wanted our competition to be harder than the (Department of the Army) Best Warrior Competition; to stress our Soldiers to the point that when they went to the Army’s Best Warrior Competition, they had the confidence to know they could compete with anyone, anywhere – and win,” he said.
The Warrior Training Center was the only organization that could push competitors that hard and take care of them within a stressful environment, he said.
“After all, they conducted Pre-Ranger, Air Assault and several other high-stress courses for the Army,” Gipe said.
The cadre at the center worked up Gipe’s initial ideas.
“The command sergeant major of the center at the time drew up a draft of the [new] competition based on the Army’s Best Ranger competition … and my vision for what I wanted our competition to be like,” he said. “I told him I wanted it to be non-stop and … what things had to be there to mirror the Army competition, but the rest was left to whatever he saw fit.”
Gipe said his goal was to take what the Army did in five days, and fit it into two days.
“That’s changed over time,” he said. “It’s no longer the 42-hour Ranger Challenge-like competition.”
Today, the Army Guard’s Best Warrior Competition is conducted over a five-to-six day period, a major change from its fledgling beginnings in 2007, but the results brought out by the revamped competition were seen not long after its introduction.
In 2008, during the second year of the Army Guard’s reinvented Best Warrior Competition , the Army Guard’s NCO of the Year—Army Staff Sgt. Michael Noyce-Merino from the Montana Army National Guard—went on to win the Department of the Army level competition and was named the Army’s NCO of the Year.
“We came a long way in a short period of time,” Gipe said, referring to 2008. “I really don’t think that the active component thought Guard and Reserve Soldiers were capable of [winning].
“That same year, the Army Reserve won the Soldier of the Year competition,” he exclaimed. “So here in the year of the NCO, both reserve components held the titles – it was pretty phenomenal and rattled a few cages on the active side.”
That represented a pretty significant moment for the Army, said Gipe.
“I thought it was a big step for us, but also a big step for the Army because it showed that they were not afraid to let their reserve components shine when they deserved to shine,” he said. “It was a pretty significant moment for the Army.”
In 2011 another Guard member, Army Sgt. Guy Mellor from the Utah Army National Guard, won the Army competition to become the second NCO of the Year from the Guard in four years.
With such great success in such a short amount of time, Gipe said the face of the Army-wide competition has been changed for the better.
“I guarantee it has elevated the level of competition at the DA level,” he said. “It’s extremely tough out there now, and even tougher to win in the states now with what this competition has come to be, but that’s the good news.
Gipe said the program has been a huge success overall and gives much credit to the Soldiers who compete, but also to the state command sergeants major and the staff at the Warrior Training Center.
“Throughout the last 10-plus years, our Soldiers have built a reputation for being quality Soldiers and NCOs through their outstanding performance of duty while deployed – both at home and abroad,” he said.
“What Staff Sgt. Noyce-Merino and Sgt. Mellor have done is to elevate that awareness of the quality of our enlisted corps to the American public.”
Videos (Part 1 and 2)
Command Sergeant Major John D. Gipe, Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs talks about the Army National Guard's Best Warrior Competition and how it has evolved over the last 6 years. Part 1 and 2.
By Senior Master Sgt. Jerry Bynum
Air National Guard Readiness Center
JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. (8/23/12) - Six Air National Guard Airmen were recognized for their achievements during the 2012 ANG Outstanding Airmen of the Year awards ceremony at the Air National Guard Readiness Center here Wednesday.
Lt. Gen. Harry M. Wyatt III, the director of the ANG, and Chief Master Sgt. Christopher E. Muncy, the command chief master sergeant to the director of the ANG, presented three recipients with the Outstanding Airman Ribbon and all the Airmen with the ANG Outstanding Airmen of the Year medallion and plaques recognizing their performance.
“It seems like every year we get better and better quality,” said Wyatt. “I think that’s a tribute to the fine job that our states are doing in training our Airmen, also in recognizing our Airmen and taking the time to nominate them for this prestigious award.”
Wyatt told those attending the ceremony that paying honor and tribute to the six outstanding Airmen representing the ANG was one of his favorite times of the year.
The 2012 ANG Outstanding Airmen of the Year are:
Senior Noncommissioned Officer of the Year: Senior Master Sgt. Luke W. Thompson, 125th Special Tactics Squadron, Oregon ANG.
Noncommissioned Officer of the Year: Tech. Sgt. Jacob S. Curtis, 126th Air Refueling Wing, Illinois ANG.
Airman of the Year: Senior Airman Michael D. McCaffrey, 116th Air Refueling Wing, Washington ANG.
First Sergeant of the Year: Master Sgt. Fred W. Hudgins Jr., 161st Air Refueling Wing, Arizona ANG.
Honor Guard Program Manager of the Year: Master Sgt. Jeffrey L. Lamarche, Eastern Air Defense Sector, New York ANG.
Honor Guard Member of the Year: Staff Sgt. Carrie M. Kline, 122nd Fighter Wing, Indiana ANG.
Each year, the 54 states and territories select their top performers from more than 92,000 ANG enlisted Airmen. This award recognizes these outstanding enlisted personnel for superior leadership, job performance, community involvement and personal achievements.
“These are American heroes,” said Muncy. “They represent the best of the best of the 92,000 enlisted members that currently serve in the Air National Guard.”
The accomplishments of these Airmen include decorated combat service in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, volunteer work in their communities and educational excellence.
The 2012 ANG Outstanding Airmen of the Year competed with the total Air Force’s active duty and Reserve Airmen from other major commands for the Air Force’s 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year recognition. Thompson was selected as one of the top 12 Airmen in the Air Force.
By Army National Guard Sgt. Darron Salzer
National Guard Bureau
FORT BENNING, Ga. (8/9/12) - Competing amongst themselves and against unfavorable environmental elements here, seven Soldiers and seven noncommissioned officers recently came head-to-head during the Army National Guard’s Best Warrior Competition, July 30, to contest who was the best of the best.
When the dust finally settled on August 2, Army Sgt. Mark Fuggiti, a supply specialist with Company C, Recruiting and Retention Battalion, Pennsylvania Army National Guard; and Army Sgt. Matthew Howard, an artillery crewmember with Battery C, 2nd Battalion, 142nd Fires Brigade, Arkansas Army National Guard, rose above the field as the top Soldier and noncommissioned officer of the year.
The road to the top was not easy and competitors had to face a multitude of obstacles that tested them both physically and mentally. Events and tasks included: a physical fitness test, a sergeant major board, a road march with heavy packs, obstacle and challenge courses, and weapons qualifications under stress.
During the second day of the competition, Fuggiti said he was able to draw upon the strength of family and friends back home to help stay motivated.
“Representing our states and just doing the best we can for our families and ourselves has helped to keep me motivated,” he said. “Everyone here is the best from their region that the Guard has to offer, so it [has been] a very good competition.”
“My wife and daughter helped me study, but they also are understanding of the time [I need] away from them to compete, time that I’ll never get back, but they [were] there to help me while … training,” he said. “[My wife] lifts me up… and she’s just been supportive and encouraging – it’s just been great.”
Competitors also received support from a sponsor - who is usually a higher-ranking NCO with competition experience - assigned to assist competitors with any issues that could come up during each level of competition. Those same sponsors help train individuals by setting up mock scenarios where their specific competitor can hone their Soldier skills, both physically and mentally.
But no amount of training or experience could help them to fully prepare for the multitude of events they had to continuously face here, and Fuggiti admitted that this made the level of competition tough.
“One of the things that we really don’t think of coming into this is that all of the tasks that you have to do, you’re put into a stressful situation in order to do it,” he said. “Sitting down at home reading the book and learning what to do does not exactly apply when your heart is beating and you’re in the field and you really need to use [that knowledge].”
Despite it being a competition, several of the competing Guard members said camaraderie among them was surprisingly high.
“I’ve honestly seen a lot of camaraderie,” said NCO first runner-up Army Staff Sgt. Eugene Patton, an intelligence analyst and readiness NCO from the 117th Space Battalion, Colorado Army National Guard.
“In some arenas there is just too much competiveness, but here we all get along and talk and build relationships,” and this kind of an event is important because it helps to build that esprit décor and camaraderie, he said.
“The camaraderie among the Soldiers has been great,” Howard said.
Winning over other competitors isn’t how each of the 14 Guard members got to the Army Guard level though. They each had to win at local, state and regional competitions in order to make it to the Army Guard competition, but only Fuggiti and Howard will move on to represent the Army National Guard at the Army’s Best Warrior competition scheduled for later this year.
All of these Soldiers and NCOs are already winners, just by the mere fact that they are here, said Army Command Sgt. Maj. Brian S. Sann, the Maryland state senior enlisted leader, illustrating that each of them have won several competitions already.
This year winners were announced at an award ceremony at the end of the final day.
“Our purpose over the past week has been to identify the best warriors to go forward to the Army competition and I think we were successful,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Richard Burch, the Army National Guard command sergeant major, “but we can’t fail to recognize all of the competitors because they’ve come a long way.”
“It’s no mistake that you’re here – you’re here for a specific reason,” he said.
Burch went on to encourage each Soldier to not squander what they have gained from their experiences throughout the competition.
“Take your experiences here from the past week and use them to challenge your own Soldiers,” he said. “You are professional Soldiers, you are masters in your art and you answered your calling … to be part of something bigger than yourself, as evidenced here this week.”
After the ceremony, Howard said he would use his experience to train for the next round.
“This level of the competition has helped me prepare for the next,” he said. “You never know what the next competition will be, but each level helps to prepare you for what may come.”
Fuggiti said to prepare for the Army competition he would begin simultaneously training mentally and physically.
“We did all of our studying on our warrior tasks sitting down at a desk, and when you’re running an obstacle course … and your heart is pounding … and having to perform these tasks, it’s a lot different,” he said. I’ll be putting more of a mix of physical training in with performing my warrior tasks as I train for the next level.
Coincidentally, both Guard members said the road march was the moment of the competition where they each felt like giving up.
That last two miles on that little dirt road, alone with no lights, I was really getting down, Howard said. “I had a heart-to-heart with God, and I just went on and got the strength to finish it up,” he said.
Fuggiti said after he finished the road march and went back to the barracks that a message from a friend back home lifted his spirits.
“It picked me back up and got me back into the fight the next day,” he said.
Humbled and honored by the recognition bestowed upon them, they are both looking forward to the next competition.
“This competition was so tough,” Howard admitted. “Without a doubt, I am honored to be representing the Army Guard. It’s humbling … and it feels great.”“This has given me a great starting point for the training going into the [Army level competition,” Fuggiti said smiling. “Even though [Sergeant Howard] is from Arkansas, I won’t hold that against him and we’ll definitely get a game plan together going into the next level.”
By Army National Guard Sgt. Darron Salzer
National Guard Bureau
ARLINGTON, Va. (7/30/12) - Senior leaders from the National Guard will host the 2012 Outstanding Soldiers and Airmen of the Year banquet, scheduled for 5:30 p.m. August 24 at the Sheraton Pentagon City Hotel.
"The National Guard Bureau is excited to host a banquet in honor of our outstanding Soldiers and Airmen from this year,” said Chief Master Sgt. Denise Jelinski-Hall, senior enlisted leader of the National Guard Bureau.
The banquet is held each year in honor of the top Soldiers and Airmen from both the Army and Air National Guard.
This year’s Army National Guard honorees are:
Army National Guard Soldier of the Year: TBD
Army National Guard Noncommissioned officer of the Year: TBD
Army National Guard Recruiter of the Year:
Army National Guard Best Ranger Team Top Placers:
The top Soldier and noncommissioned officer of the year for the Army Guard will be determined during the Army National Guard’s Best Warrior Competition at Fort Benning, Ga. July 30 – Aug. 3.
Army Command Sgt. Maj. Richard Burch, command sergeant major of the Army National Guard – who is en route to the Best Warrior Competition – said, "As the command sergeant major of the Army National Guard, I am looking forward to honoring our top Soldiers and noncommissioned officers from each of the regions around the U.S.
“They will soon be competing at the Army National Guard's Best Warrior Competition down at Fort Benning to see who among them is the best of the best – but, really, they are all the best and have worked hard to prove that to themselves and the Army National Guard,” Burch said.
The Air National Guard honorees for this year are:
Air National Guard Senior Noncommissioned Officer of the Year:
Air National Guard Noncommissioned Officer of the Year:
Air National Guard Airman of the Year:
Air National Guard First Sergeant of the Year:
Air National Guard Honor Guard Program Manager of the Year:
Air National Guard Honor Guard Member of the Year:
"We celebrate these six Outstanding Airmen who represent the 91,000 amazing ANG enlisted warriors,” said Chief Master Sgt. Christopher Muncy, the command chief master sergeant of the Air National Guard. “I wish we could honor all our Guard Soldiers and Airmen like we do these lucky few. They all should be the toast of every town, village, and city in America."
Those lucky few will most certainly be the toast of the District when they are recognized for all of their hard work to rise to the top of their respective services.
“The choice of who will represent the Army and the Air National Guard is never easy, however, individuals who will be honored in August in our nation's capital are truly America's finest Citizen-Warriors, and I very much look forward to meeting each of them,” Jelinski-Hall said.
Attendance is highly encouraged for the banquet. For the official invitation, or to find out more information, please visit: