BASRA, Iraq - Soldiers serving in Iraq faced off Sept. 8 in a quarterly competition designed to challenge Soldiers' military skills.

The competition was held on Contingency Operating Base Basra, and included tests of physical endurance, weapons proficiency, and military knowledge.

Staff Sgt. James Balog, a native of Austin Town, Ohio, took first place in the noncommissioned officers category of the competition. Balog won by achieving the most points for performance in events including a race through an obstacle course, a three-mile run in full combat gear, and even a weapons challenge involving an old fashioned bow and arrow.

"Every second of every event was challenging," said Balog, "and it made you work either physically or mentally."

Balog prepared rigorously for the competition, which he attributes to his competitive nature and a desire to stand out above his peers in the Army's competitive promotion system.

"I kept a log for one month of how many miles I ran (in preparation), and it totaled out to 93 miles," said Balog. "For the mental part, I dug into Army study guide note cards that had to be a thousand cards deep."

Balog is serving his third deployment to Iraq as a Black Hawk door gunner assigned to the Enhanced Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division.

He was encouraged by his superiors to participate in the competition after he won his unit's NCO of the Quarter board recently. He is now also planning to compete in his unit's NCO of the Year board Sept. 29.

"I want to be the guy standing in front one day," said Balog. "This is part of the road to success for me, and if I can set a good example at the same time, I am all for it."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16