CAC NCO, Soldier of Year both from Fort Benning
June 24, 2011
FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (June, Soldiers from Fort Benning, Ga., took both titles this year in the Combined Arms Center Noncommissioned Officer and Soldier of the Year competition.
Staff Sgt. Raymond M. Santiago, A Company, and Spc. Blaise J. Corbin, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, both of the 4th Ranger Training Battalion, were named NCO and Soldier of the Year. The competition June 12-17 on Fort Leavenworth hosted competitors throughout CAC’s Centers of Excellence. Representatives came from the Joint Center of Excellence for Human Intelligence Training at Fort Huachuca, Ariz.; the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation and the Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning, Ga.; the Aviation Center of Excellence at Fort Rucker, Ala.; the Fires Center of Excellence at Fort Sill, Okla.; the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., and a few others.
Soldiers were tested on a variety of topics, including weapons qualification, warrior task testing, a night land navigation course, a physical fitness test and a knowledge assessment board before a panel of senior NCOs.
CAC Command Sgt. Maj. Philip F. Johndrow said all the events tested competitors on skills needed on the battlefield. He congratulated them at a ceremony June 17.
“Every one of you are winners just by competing today,” he said.
Brig Gen. Sean MacFarland, deputy commanding general of CAC Leader Development and Education, said the competitors were already part of an elite group by joining the U.S. Army.
“All of these Soldiers here today enlisted during a time of war,” he said. “They joined with no illusions about what they were getting into. They joined the Army, arguably the least glamorous of the armed forces.”
MacFarland said while the rest of the country had been focused on a news story about online actions of a Congressman, those in the military faced the realities of repeated combat deployments.
He said those who don’t wear a uniform could never understand the bond that exists between Soldiers.
“Those who wear the uniform of a Soldier are the greatest members of this generation,” he said. “They’re a true band of brothers and sisters who shed blood and sweat and tears together.”
MacFarland told NCO and Soldier of the Year competitors that their dedication to service would serve as an example to others.
“In a war we’re fighting we need Soldiers and NCOs like the ones here today more than ever,” he said. “They represent what ‘right’ looks like for the rest of us. As our Army returns from battle, (we) need examples to rally around, to get ourselves back into balance and to get ready for the next fight.”
Santiago scored an Army Physical Fitness Test score of 349, and Corbin scored a 344 during the competition. Santiago, a Cayey, Puerto Rico, native, has been in the Army 10 years. He is married to Shireen and they have five children. He has had two 15-month deployments to Iraq. Santiago serves at Fort Benning as a Ranger School instructor.
Santiago and Corbin said part of their strategy for winning the CAC competition was training together.
“We trained pretty rigorously,” Santiago said. “We worked out two or three times a day, trained with weapons, and we spent time talking about weapons.”
Corbin said Santiago’s quick pace and rigorous drills kept him in check. He said they also learned from competing in their local event, at Fort Benning.
Corbin was married the day after winning CAC Soldier of the Year. His one-year anniversary of joining the Army was just days before the competition began. Corbin plans to attend Ranger School.
Each competitor received CAC coins from Johndrow. Winners received Army Commendation Medals, CAC plaques, gift certificates for new uniforms, $100 gift cards, an NCO sword, a flag case and a $50 gift certificate.
Santiago and Corbin will now advance to the Training and Doctrine Command NCO and Soldier of the Year competition later this year.