FORT POLK, La. -- Throughout 2009's "Year of the NCO," Fort Polk's U.S. Army Medical Department Activity has held monthly events and competitions that highlight the role of noncommissioned officers.

May's event, which focused on leadership and training, combined the basic Soldier skills of physical fitness and marksmanship in a showdown featuring five two-man teams that contained one NCO and one officer or Soldier.

On May 29, Soldiers from MEDDAC assembled in the company area at 6:30 a.m. to cheer on the competitors. The teams were:
Aca,!Ac Sgt. Kevin Pease and Spc. Ewen Tesot, the command's reigning NCO and Soldier of the Year;
Aca,!Ac Staff Sgt. Eric Jones and Pfc. Jaime Garza;
Aca,!Ac Sgt. 1st Class Mario Magallanez and Pvt. William Moak;
Aca,!Ac Sgt. Justin Hollis and Capt. Davie Dee; and
Aca,!Ac Command Sgt. Maj. Ricky Dean and Col. George Giacoppe, Bayne-Jones Army Community Hospital's command sergeant major and commander.

The contest began with a 2.5-mile run from the company parking lot on Third Street to the obstacle course on Georgia Avenue. Each team completed the run together before attacking their obstacle - a rope climb followed by a ladder climb then a descent down a rope ladder. Once the obstacle was completed - again, together - teams completed another 2.5-mile run back to the company parking lot.

After the physical fitness portion, it appeared Pease and Tesot would be the team to beat. The pair lived up to their advanced billing, completing the course in 44:40, almost seven minutes faster than the second-place team of Evan and Giacoppe.

"It was hard," an exhausted Tesot said after the second run. "My legs are killing me and I feel like throwing up. I'm completely worn out."
Pease said the return run was difficult.
"It almost killed me," he said. "We pushed it hard because we wanted to make sure we beat the CO and command sergeant major. I think it's great they competed; it showed their leadership."

Dean said that was his reason for competing.
"Setting an example for our Soldiers is the most important thing we can do as leaders," Dean said. "It also showed that we have a good officer/NCO relationship."

Giacoppe said he would like to have seen more teams compete.
"But for those who did, it was good training," he said. "They train me well every day."

The teams used the rest of the morning to recover before moving on to the marksmanship competition at 1 p.m. Each competitor fired the M16 and M9 simulator for record fire. Once everyone completed qualification, the points were totaled and added to the morning's score.

At 3:45 p.m., the company assembled in the BJACH dining facility to find out who won. In an upset, the team of Magallanez and Moak, fourth-place finishers in the run/obstacle course, fired their way to a one-point win over Pease and Tesot.
Magallanez said he wasn't surprised at his team's comeback victory.

"I thought our chances were good going into the marksmanship phase," he said. "We have experience and I figured we'd do alright."

Moak said he was shocked.
"I didn't even know if we'd be in the running after the run," he said. "I didn't know how the points worked. It was a grueling event. I was gassed after the run."
Unit 1st Sgt. Jorge Lopez said the event was a "perfect example" of how NCOs lead the way.
"Our NCOs inspired, planned and led the event," Lopez said. "Every team today was a winner."