Warriors contend for Soldier/NCO of the Year honors
March 12, 2012
GRAFENWOEHR, Germany -- On March 4-6 one junior enlisted Soldier and three NCOs battled to represent USAG Grafenwoehr in the upcoming IMCOM Europe Soldier and NCO of the Year competition.
Staff Sgt. Ryan Barnard, a chaplain's assistant for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwoehr, beat out Sgt. Scott Myers, Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, USAG Hohenfels and Sgt. Travis Watts, HHC, USAG Garmisch, for the honor of NCO of the Year in Grafenwoehr. Vying for Soldier of the year, Spc. Jacob Plaster, HHC, USAG Garmisch, who arrived less than three weeks ago, did not advance in the competition.
Keeping with the norm, this year's competition tested knowledge along with strength and endurance to determine the most capable contender.
Each day presented back-to-back challenges for competitors. Beginning March 4, Soldiers convened for weigh in, equipment check and briefings. The next day began early, pitting competitors against each other in a freezing PT test before they moved on to marksmanship.
That afternoon proved the most grueling as Soldiers endured a series of questions posed by a panel of upper-level noncommissioned officers. Competitors stood at attention, answering questions from the Military Study Guide, while a panel judge took a ruler to their uniforms, measuring for adherence to code.
The panel judged both on the accuracy of the competitors' answers and their poise under pressure.
The third and final day, March 6, kicked off at 4:30 a.m. with a 6.2 mile ruck march. Through the ice and fog that morning, Barnard came in first with 1 hour 28 minutes on the clock. Later that morning, the competitors sat for a written exam before Barnard continued his winning streak in combatives.
Though the annual event pits NCOs and Soldiers against each other, competitive fervor was accompanied by cooperation. While waiting in their dress blues before entering the panel, NCOs checked and double checked their competitors' uniforms, fixing mistakes.
"We're all a team because we all fight for the same cause," said Watts, who won Soldier of the Year in 2011 and came back to try his hand in the NCO field. He then conceded, "But, it's a competition and we're all hoping to outscore our buddy."
Barnard, who started his domination of the competition early, found drive in an Army ethos of personal motivation.
"Failure's not really an option," said Barnard.
"Always do your best. If you give it your all, there's not really anything to be ashamed of."
To Barnard, the right NCO "honestly tries to live the Army values in everything that they do."
Plaster echoed this sense of persistent integrity.
"What makes the best Soldier," explained Plaster, "is someone who's striving to be better, who's doing the right thing all the time, even when no one else is around."
The IMCOM Europe Soldier and NCO of the Year competition will take place in Grafenwoehr, April 2-5.