FORT BRAGG, N.C. - Seven Soldiers were awarded top honors by the XVIII Airborne Corps commander in a ceremony at Fort Bragg Friday afternoon.

Cpl. Travis Weaver, signal support specialist, 525th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade, and Staff Sgt. Ryan Green, platoon sergeant, 108th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, were awarded Soldier and Noncommissioned Officer of the Year. The XVIII Airborne Corps color guard competition winners, Staff Sgt. Abner Baker, national colors bearer; Cpl. Matthew Shell, brigade colors bearer; Pfc. Richard Wiley, right guard; Pfc. Michael Alcorn, left guard; and Sgt. 1st Class Gregory Laldee, color guard noncommissioned officer in charge, all of whom represented the 108th ADA Bde. were also awarded and the first to be recognized.

Each of the five color guard teams that participated in the competition May 20, first had a color guard inspection, then each team had to demonstrate the uncasing and casing of the colors and finally showed the colors in ceremony.

"This competition brings out the best," said Command Sgt. Maj. Harold Lincoln, 3rd Battalion, 4th Air Defense Artillery Regiment. "The color guard represents the Soldiers' pride. Everyone who has carried the colors in the past can look back on that time with pride, knowing they were the ones to represent discipline and honor in both the past and the present."

Each Soldier on the winning color guard team was presented with the Army Achievement medal.
"It is great, I am proud of those guys," said Laldee about his color guard team. "We practice like we fight; we practice like we are doing the competition every time."

"I believe the competitions like the Soldier of the Year, NCO of the Year and the Color Guard of the Year are good for the Soldiers," he continued. "It lets them see that when you do work hard you get recognized and that you're appreciated for the things you do."

After the color guard award presentation, the Soldier and NCO of the year honors were given.
The Soldier and NCO of the Year competition was held April 14-17 and consisted of one Soldier and one NCO from each of six units. Each participant had to complete and pass an Army Physical Fitness Test, a rifle zero and qualification range, both day and night urban orienteering, a written exam, warrior tasks and finally, a board appearance.

"This competition is important because it is designed to find out which Soldier within the XVIII Airborne Corps is the most qualified, most well-rounded Soldier or NCO," said Weaver.

For winning the NCO of the Year competition, Lt. Gen. Lloyd Austin III, commanding general of XVIII Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg, along with Command Sgt. Maj. Joseph Allen, XVIII Airborne Corps command sergeant major, presented Green with a Meritorious Service Medal, and for winning the Soldier of the Year competition, Weaver was awarded the Army Commendation Medal.
Austin and Allen also presented both Soldiers with a $500 savings bond and plaque from AUSA, boots and gloves provided by Oakley, and Richard Petty Driving Experiences provided by Lowes Motor Speedway. Various other agencies also recognized the Soldiers' achievements with donations and gifts.

"I have great leaders above me to help me, teach me and coach me every step of the way, and a great group of Soldiers who inspired me to do well. I also have the unwavering support from my wife, Christina," said Greene. "I would like to thank them for their support."
"It is a great honor to be named the XVIII Airborne Corps Soldier of the Year," said Weaver. "I am proud of this accomplishment and thankful for the opportunity to compete amongst the best of the best."

Concluding the ceremony, Austin commended the Soldiers on their efforts and a job well done.

"We are here today to recognize a few people who have accomplished extraordinary things," said Austin. "To our new NCO of the year, our Soldier of the year, and our color guard of the year, and to their leadership, I want to say congratulations on a job extremely well done."
After the appreciation and commendations went out, Austin left the audience with a quote by Howard Cosell, "'The ultimate victory in competition is derived from the inner satisfaction of knowing that you have done your best and that you have gotten the most out of what you had to give'"