By Sgt. Manda Walters, 129th Mobile Public Affairs DetachmentNovember 2, 2013
BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan - The Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 101st Airborne Division, Task Force Gladiator held its annual two-day competition culminating in the selection of Noncommissioned Officer and Soldier of the Year at Bagram Air Field, Oct. 30, 2013.
"The major challenge to this competition is that soldiers are in an actual combat zone," said Command Sgt. Maj. Tonika Scott-Morris, HHB 101st Airborne Division, of Florence, Ala. "They have to be aware of the protective posture as well as cover and concealment if we take indirect fire during the competition."
While no indirect fire occurred during the event, the unique combat-zone aspect added to the skill necessary to carry out the traditional hands-on tasks.
The 10 participants competed in timed soldiering tasks and battle-skill training, including a physical fitness test, issue of an operations order, operating a radio, interacting with media, donning protective masks, detainee searches, weapons assembly and qualification, medical skills, a 12-mile ruck march, written exam and an oral board.
"The medical lane is one example where soldiers are put under additional stress and tested on their ability to put into action what they have been trained to do," said Scott-Morris.
Under simulated battle stressors such as gunfire, explosions and light disturbances, competitors applied first aid to a 150-pound mannequin with multiple injuries, then moved the casualty approximately 50 meters to the extraction point.
Before and during the competition, participants gained knowledge of themselves while enhancing their competence in the battle drills.
"I pushed myself a little bit farther than I actually thought I could," said Sgt. Jose Rios, noncommissioned officer in charge of human resources, HHB Battalion, 101st Human Resources NCO, and a native of Caguas, Puerto Rico. "I learned about the steps I need to take to save someone's life and will take that back to the soldiers of my unit."
"My NCO and myself made a training calendar for October," said Spc. William Boyle, fire support specialist, Combined Joint Fires, and a Monson, Mass., native. "This helped me prepare now, but will also be something I can use to help fellow soldiers prepare in the future as well."
Pushing oneself and utilizing a training calendar paid off. Boyle and Rios were selected HHB 101st Airborne Division Soldier of the Year and Noncommissioned Officer of the Year, respectively.
A formal ceremony to recognize the winners is slated for mid-November. Rios and Boyle may continue on to compete at the division level upon redeployment.