By Sgt. Brandon HubbardOctober 31, 2016
CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait - Sergeants from around the U.S. Army Central area of operations traveled to Camp Arifjan, Kuwait last month for the inaugural 160th Signal Brigade Noncommissioned Officer Week.
The week-long celebration focused on junior and senior enlisted Soldiers with a special focus on their career development and the physical readiness that makes them the backbone of the U.S. Army.
"The best part was seeing the interaction of some of my noncommissioned officers - even some of the NCOs that came from different units - coming together to show the camaraderie and esprit de corps we need in the NCO corps to be together as one team and one fight," said Command Sgt. Maj. Tara Washington, the senior enlisted advisor for the Camp Arifjan-deployed 160th Signal Brigade.
The week started with professional development courses, which included classes in financial planning and noncommissioned officer career instruction. The final two days were dedicated to welcoming new Soldiers in a traditional noncommissioned officer induction ceremony, followed by the NCO games.
"I would say another highlight, to me, was the NCO induction ceremony, because some noncommissioned officers haven't been to a ceremony or even witnessed one in 10 or 12 years," said Washington, of Goose Creek, S.C. "It was great to get back to what we do as an NCO corps."
Washington said after years of being deployed to warzones, the Army has lost some of the traditions and standards it previously lived up to because of the high-tempo deployments schedules. Functions like NCO Week can help the corps refocus, she said.
Top NCOs from the 392nd Expeditionary Support Battalion, 54th Signal Battalion and25th Signal Battalion in Afghanistan traveled to Kuwait for the week, as well as Soldiers from Qatar and other bases in Kuwait.
Sgt. 1st Class Greg Ronquille, headquarters and headquarters detachment sergeant for the 25th Signal Battalion in Camp As Sayliyah, Qatar, was on hand to support his Soldiers.
"I was very proud of our Soldiers out here," Ronquille said. "In this kind of environment, I find that we have more time to get in shape than when we are out in the field and providing communications in those conditions. So, we take the time to focus on that and build our NCOs."
Fitness has become an increasingly important trait for signal corps Soldiers, he said, because of the expeditionary nature of missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"From a grassroots perspective, I've been in for 19 years and this really brings it back to when I first pinned on E-5 [sergeant rank], but it is important for us NCOs to reinvigorate ourselves," he said. "One of the things I plan to bring back to my guys is that NCOs are Soldiers who stay hungry and need to be competitive in their career fields to enable all Soldiers to be better."
The final day was undoubtedly the most challenging for the four-Soldier teams who competed in the NCO Week games.
The sun was raising temperatures into the mid-90s when the teams started the competition with a four-mile ruck march with 35-pound packs. Some Soldiers opted to push the pace, running the distance before dropping their gear and starting the second event - a golf cart push around a softball field. A back-crawl, tractor-tire flip for 50-meters, mental challenges, a 100-meter water sprint and team water pallet move were among the list of the events that took between two and three hours to finish as a team.
Spc. Michael Machara, Sgt. Junior Lovo and Staff Sgts. Omar Gutierrez and Arnell Raynor from the 56th Signal Company won the overall competition.
"I'd say the hardest part was the ruck march, because the sun was out and I don't do well in the heat," said Machara, of Gaithersburg, Md. "When I got to the second hill, I definitely had to slow down and focus. But, just had to keep pushing."
The specialist promotable says he enjoyed working alongside senior NCOs and getting to see their dedication - especially because he sees physical fitness as very important in meeting his goal to serve at least 20 years in the Army and achieving the rank of sergeant major.
"It was an awesome experience," he said. "Soldiers look up their NCOs, so when they see them out here competing, I'm sure they will want to do it one day when they become senior leaders."