Soldiers from across the country came to JBLM to compete for the title of I Corps Best Soldier and Best Noncommissioned Officer of the Year, June 10 to 13.
Sergeant William Duran, 42nd Military Police Brigade, (a specialist at the start of the competition), was named the Best Soldier of the Year and Sgt. Nicholas Bogert, 4th Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, was named Best NCO of the Year.
Representatives from Colorado, California, Kansas and JBLM came to find out who would move on to represent Americas Corps at the Forces Command Best Soldier and NCO of the Year competiton.
Fourteen Soldiers were stressed mentally and physically with a series of ruck marches, land navigation courses, grueling physical training and more events.
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. One focused on his buddies for motivation.
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 (Calif.) 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.
On the final day, the competitors tightened up their dress uniforms and put all their studying to the test, facing Command Sgt. Maj. John Wayne Troxell, I Corps command sergeant major, and his fellow board members. 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.
It is a big accomplishment for me, Duran said. 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 began his journey through the board competitions as a specialist, and following his brigade Best Soldier competition, was promoted to sergeant.
Bogert said being named Best NCO of the Year came as a surprise in view of the tough competition he faced. 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, he said. 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 simple advice for those who find boards intimidating, but are considering competing next year.
Get comfortable during those mock boards, he said. 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 represent I Corps at the Forscom level competition at Fort Bragg, N.C., July 20 to 26.