Soldiers from across the country migrated to JBLM to compete for the title of I Corps Best Soldier and Best Noncommissioned Officer of the Year, June 10-13. Representatives from Colorado, California, Kansas and JBLM came here ready to see who was going to be the best and move on to represent the corps at the Forces Command Best Soldier and NCO of the Year.
During the competition, Soldiers were stressed both mentally and physically through a series of ruck marches, land navigation courses, grueling physical training and more events, to see who of the 14 competitors that started this journey, would come out on top.
Over the last three days we put these competitors through some rigorous tasks, sleep deprivation and arduous conditions, said Sgt. 1st Class Jose Apodaca, knowledge management NCO assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, Special Troops Battalion, 593rd Sustainment Brigade. We wanted to stress their mind and body to see who is actually the best of the best, to represent I Corps at the next level.
Competitors had to overcome sleep deprivation to perform tasks requiring mental agility, and as the competition wore on, Soldiers started to feel the pressure. One Soldier maintained his motivation, by remembering those who helped him to get to this stage of the competition.
I dont want to let my unit down, said Spc. Mathew Holiday, intelligence analyst, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment. There are people back at Fort Irwin I know who expect a lot from me. I want to do my best so at least if I dont win I can say I gave it my all. I want to represent Fort Irwin well.
For one competitor fairly new to the Army, the process and the boards that he passed through on his way to the I Corps level competition has proven to be more than just about competition.
I have learned a lot during this whole process and I have learned a lot more about the Army waythe right wayand it has helped me to know what Ill be doing when I get promoted, said Holiday.
On the final day, the competitors tightened up their dress uniforms and put all their studying to the test as they faced Command Sgt. Maj. John Wayne Troxell, I Corps command sergeant major, and his fellow board members. During the board Soldiers were evaluated on their military knowledge and professional appearance.
Following the board the final scores were tallied from each event and the winners were announced.
Sergeant William Duran, 42nd Military Police Brigade, was named the Best Soldier of the Year and Sgt. Nicholas Bogert, 4th Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, was named Best NCO of the Year.
It is a big accomplishment for me, said Duran. I have been able to make a 180 degree turn, from being demoted at one point, to being resilient, proving myself and coming back to be I Corps Soldier of the Year."
Duran, a Riverside, Cali., native began his journey through the board competitions as a specialist, and following his brigade Best Soldier competition, was promoted to sergeant.
For Bogert, being named Best NCO of the Year came as something of a surprise; not due to his training or preparation, but overcoming the high level of competition he was facing. He is not taking his continued success for granted.
There are a lot of physically fit, talented and intelligent individuals in the military, so to think I have gone this far is amazing, said Bogert, originally from Brown City, Mich. I cant get cocky about each win. I have to understand that there is always someone better than me in certain areas. So the best I can do is improve in the areas I need improvement and continue to push the areas Im strong in.
Bogert shared a simple piece of advice for those who find boards and competitions intimidating, but are considering making the run for the best in I Corps next year. Get comfortable during those mock boards, said Bogert. There are a lot of scary things in life. Unless you actually face them and challenge it, youre never going to advance in life or your career. Face challenges head on.
Both Soldiers will now move on to represent I Corps at the FORSCOM level competition at Fort Bragg, N.C., July 20 to 26.