The XVIII Airborne Corps Noncommissioned Officer of the Year and Soldier of the Year competition brought 21 Soldiers to Fort Bragg from installations across the Army, last week.
Competitors came from Fort Drum, New York, Fort Benning, Georgia, Fort Campbell, Kentucky and from Fort Lewis, Washington, with winners advancing to the U.S. Army Forces Command competition later this year, said Staff Sgt. Michael Alexander, 18th Field Artillery Brigade.
The NCoY competition pulls Soldiers from the rank of sergeant to sergeant first class and the SoY pulls Soldiers ranked private to specialist, Alexander said.
They are tested in skills such as responding to a chemical attack, land-navigational skills, rucking and clearing and reassembling an M249 machine gun.
“There’s a lot of heart involved. It’s not just the physical aspect of it …,” said Sgt. 1st Class James Earnest, 18th FA Bde. “It’s a competition to see who stands to be the best.”
“It feels good to be here. It gives my kids a lot of look up to,” said Staff Sgt. Vlorim Aliu, 29, a 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division Soldier who traveled from Fort Benning to compete.
Spc. Demetrius Milczakowskyj, another 18th FA Bde. Soldier, said he most enjoyed the land navigation test.
“It was very wet. I kind of feel like I was taking a shower, but it was wonderful,” Milczakowskyj said.
“I’m a firefighter, so this is definitely broadening the horizon and creating new experiences,” said Staff Sgt. Justin Harmon, 3rd Expeditionary Support Command.
As a competitor this year, Spc. Kyle Ciesco, 21st Military Police Company, said he would advise next year’s competitors to work on their rucking skills.
The Soldiers march nearly 50 miles in three days, said Command Sgt. Maj. Roger Jacobs, XVIII Abn. Corps.
They are tested physically and mentally and must know how to perform when they are hot, cold, wet or tired, under any conditions.
“It’s not just to be smart at one time or strong at one time, it’s to bring those things together through all the difficult times.”
The competition is based on a 5,000 point system with each task receiving a different score.
The winner of the 2017 XVIII Airborne Corps NCO of the Year competition is Sgt. Michael Smith, 101st Air Assault Division.
Runner up is Sgt. 1st Class Stephen Hodgson, 82nd Airborne Division.
The winner of the 2017 XVIII Airborne Corps Soldier of the Year competition is Spc. Mitchel Clark, 44th Medical Brigade.
Runner up is Spc. James Baughn, 101st Air Assault Div.
Soldiers have to go through two or three boards just to be able to represent their unit at this competition, said Jacobs.
“Just to make it to this level alone is an extraordinary accomplishment,” he said.