Paratroopers win FORSCOM Best Warrior competition
July 29, 2011
FORT HOOD, Texas, Aug. 1, 2011 -- Two XVIII Airborne Corps troops, Staff Sgt. Jonathan Castillo and Pfc. Thomas Hauser, snagged top honors at the 2011 Forces Command Noncommissioned Officer and Soldier of the Year competition held here July 25-28.
After beating out seven other competitors in their respective divisions, Castillo and Hauser will move on to represent FORSCOM in the all-Army NCO and Soldier of the Year contests.
“It feels great - better than great,” said Castillo, assigned to the Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk Noncommissioned Offcer Academy. “I’m looking forward to it, much so. I have to train much harder. I don’t know what the next competition is going to be like.”
Castillo, began training for the competition, which included a formal board, day and night land navigation and marksmanship tests among other warrior skills, over six months ago.
“I am extremely proud of him,” his sponsor, Staff Sgt. W. B. Francher, said. “We’ve been training for this since November, so we kind of expected to win.”
Despite his training, Castillo still struggled with unexpected additions to normal warrior tasks.
“The hardest part of the competition was the marksmanship,” Castillo said. “It wasn’t hard, but they added some realistic stuff -- battle scenarios.”
In addition to surprising changes to the contest, Castillo’s challengers also provided an unknown element.
“Not knowing where you were at through the entire duration of the competition really keeps you on your toes,” the 29 year-old Castillo said. “You don’t know who the next guy is or how long he’s been studying.”
Francher said that Castillo’s drive to set a good example for his own Soldiers was a factor in his success.
“He’s a great leader,” Francher said. “He strives for excellence in his Soldiers, so he’s going to do it himself.”
Castillo had encouraging words for any Soldier looking to achieve greatness.
“Do it -- try hard and don’t stop,” he said. “And when you think you can’t go anymore, you can.”
Hauser, a military policeman, said his drive to win came from within.
“I’m a competitor and I love to compete in anything,” the 21 year-old Hauser said. “I hate to lose. That’s not something that I do.”
Though he was focused on winning, Hauser, assigned to the 563rd Military Police Company, 91st MP battalion, 16th MP Brigade, says all of the competitors bonded.
“The competition was amazing,” he said. “They’re all good sports. No one was bad-talking anybody and we’ve all become friends.”
Staff Sgt. Julia Ruiz, Hauser’s sponsor, said her Soldier’s mental toughness allowed him to win the contest.
“He’s a hard-charger,” she said. “He always wants the best. He’s not good at failing.” Ruiz added that support from their unit also contributed to Hauser’s accomplishment.
“We had 100 percent support at the unit level,” she said. “Pfc. Hauser was able to train whenever he needed to train. If we didn’t have the assets readily available at our level we could branch out to assist him.”
The end result of his dedication was a win.
“I think he did stellar,” Ruiz said. “His head was always in the game and he stayed focused. He’s more than ready to take on [the all-Army competition] and hopefully sweep that, too.”
After four days of hard work, the competitors celebrated with a banquet and award presentation ceremony.
“To know that I’m representing FORSCOM (Forces Command) is great,” Hauser said. “Hard work shows and it pays off.”
Francher knows that mantra all too well.
“I’m proud of (Castillo’s) performance,” he said. “He did great. We’ll start training again on Wednesday.”