Sgt. Bridget Olenik, a percussionist with Fort Leonard Wood’s 399th Army Band, is the U.S. Army Bands Active Component Soldier of the Year for 2022. Issued by the U.S. Army School of Music, the award recognizes top Soldiers from the National Guard, Reserve and active-duty Army bands, who stand out among their peers based on several factors, such as physical fitness, weapons qualifications and musical proficiency.
Sgt. Bridget Olenik, a percussionist with Fort Leonard Wood’s 399th Army Band, is the U.S. Army Bands Active Component Soldier of the Year for 2022. Issued by the U.S. Army School of Music, the award recognizes top Soldiers from the National Guard, Reserve and active-duty Army bands, who stand out among their peers based on several factors, such as physical fitness, weapons qualifications and musical proficiency. (Photo Credit: Photo by Amanda Sullivan, Fort Leonard Wood Public Affairs Office) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — The U.S. Army School of Music named Sgt. Bridget Olenik, a percussionist with Fort Leonard Wood’s 399th Army Band, the U.S. Army Bands Active Component Soldier of the Year for 2022.

According to the USASOM, the award recognizes top Soldiers from the National Guard, Reserve and active-duty Army bands, who stand out among their peers based on several factors, such as physical fitness, weapons qualifications and musical proficiency.

Olenik, a native of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, was selected for the top spot out of nominees from across 20 active Army bands. Warrant Officer Brian Dorgan, 399th Army Band commander, and 1st Sgt. Byron Bartosh nominated Olenik for the award.

Dorgan said Olenik, who has served in every musical group within the band since arriving to Fort Leonard Wood almost two years ago, consistently performs her duties to the highest standard.

“Sgt. Olenik goes above and beyond performing as a percussionist, all while learning and mastering Soldier and junior NCO requirements,” Dorgan said. “Additionally, she serves as the operational representative for the 399th’s busiest performance team, the Missouri Brass Quintet, which is normally a position reserved for a seasoned sergeant or staff sergeant.”

The accomplishment was a team effort, Olenik said, and reinforced the support she has from both her peers and band leadership.

“For me, this is a truly humbling experience, and tells me that I have leaders and peers who think highly of me,” she said. “It’s the people around me who have gotten me to this point. They have pushed me in a direction that has made me successful.”

One of those people is flutist and fellow bandsman, Sgt. Tatiana Preziuso, who helped compile Olenik’s nomination packet.

“She is a spectacular Soldier, and this achievement is such an incredible honor to anyone in the field,” Preziuso said. “There are certain pockets in the Army that are extremely competitive, and the Army bands are one of them.”

According to Preziuso, 82 percent of new Soldiers who come to Army bands hold degrees, with more than 60 percent having a bachelor’s degree, and around 27 percent having a master’s degree. This combination of education and experience across Army bands makes competition fierce for awards like this, she said.

“The average age of a Soldier entering the Army band is 27, so we come in a little older, with a little more life experience and education under our belts,” Preziuso said. “In the civilian world, music is very competitive, so we are used to that. It’s hard to win (this award), so even to get nominated or be runner-up is such a huge honor. She can use this feather in her cap to show that she was the best.”

Dorgan agreed, adding the award showcases how Army musicians are versatile, well-rounded Soldiers with the talent to be anything the Army needs them to be.

“This is a significant achievement, because the quality of nominees is second to none,” he said. “Just here at the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence, band Soldiers have won competition after competition, including two of the last three best warrior competitions. Although we’d love to say this only happens here at the 399th, our entire career management field is full of highly competent and competitive people.”

Moving forward, Olenik — who was recently promoted to sergeant — said she hopes to continue her success through whatever opportunities come her way.

“I’ve already done so many things I never thought I’d be able to do, and I’ve checked off a lot of boxes,” she said. “So, in the future, I hope to get promoted again and continue to be successful in my roles as I gain more responsibility through leadership.”