By QUENTIN MELSON, 20th Support Command (CBRNE)May 16, 2009
Two 20th Support Command (CBRNE) Soldiers proved they were the "best of the best" and named the command's Noncommissioned Officer and Soldier of the Year after a grueling five-day competition at Aberdeen Proving Ground, April 20 through 24.
The winners have two striking similarities - both are explosive ordnance disposal technicians and assigned to the same unit.
The 2009 CBRNE Soldier of the Year is Spc. Elijah Sedig from the 38th EOD Detachment, Fort Stewart, Ga.; the 2009 CBRNE NCO of the Year is Sgt. Aaron Reyes, an EOD tech from the same unit.
Three NCOs and three Soldiers competed in eight events during the rigorous competition which was designed to test endurance, intellect and judgment. Their performance was evaluated while performing Army warrior tasks.
"We sponsored the event to pick the best Soldiers in the command," said Sgt. Maj. Tony Marshall, the command's senior operations sergeant. "We tested them with a written essay, a twelve-mile road march, day and night land navigation courses, weapons qualification, an Army Physical Fitness Test, warrior tasks and a competition board."
"I am happy to have won," Sedig said. "I hope that I can inspire other Soldiers. Everybody should try to be the best Soldier that they can be."
One of the competition's toughest tests was the competition board.
"The board can be tough if you have never been to one before," Sedig said. "It's hard work studying for hours and hours for the board, but it's rewarding. If you study really hard and give it all you've got, the board members notice and you will score high."
Each Soldier had to be successful in preliminary events at their unit, their battalion and at brigade-level commands before competing in the CBRNE Command competition. The Soldiers selected had already proven themselves among the top Soldiers in the command. The hard part was competing against the "best of the best" to win.
Before the competition began, Reyes had confidently explained why he was selected for the competition.
"I was chosen because my command felt that I had the best chance of winning," he said. "I look forward to participating in all of the events, but I am especially looking forward to the road march."
After winning the road march competition and capturing the NCO of the Year crown, Reyes was philosophical about his accomplishments.
"The road march was tough," he said, "and everybody that competed was great. The good thing about the road march event was that everybody finished. That's how it should be."
Reyes was gracious about winning and going on to the next level - the U.S. Army Forces Command NCO of the Year competition.
"Winning is definitely a step in the right direction," he said, "and I hope to represent the 20th Support Command (CBRNE) well. However, the thing I am most proud of is that one of my Soldiers who I train and work with everyday won the Soldier of the Year competition. I am really excited about that."
Whether they won or not, all the Soldiers who participated were continuing the Army's long tradition of excellence.
"We found out who the most tactically and technically proficient Soldiers were," said 1st Sgt. Tamiko Bogad, a board member from the command's headquarters element.
"The Soldiers who were selected had to meet and exceed the standards. It was a good and friendly competition for them to realize their full potential," she said. "Everybody completed all of the events -- that doesn't happen all of the time. We challenged Soldiers to do things that they never thought that they could do, and that is what the Army is all about."
Sedig and Reyes will represent both their unit and the CBRNE Command at the FORSCOM competition at Fort McPherson, Ga., in June.
Other Soldiers in the competition were Sgts. Blake Erb, 7th Chemical Company, Fort Polk, La., and Casey Graffam, 172nd Chemical Company, Fort Riley, Kan.; Spc. Matthew Woolfolk, 663rd EOD Detachment, Fort Carson, Colo.; and Cpl. John Carroll, 7th Chemical Company, Fort Polk, La.