FORT POLK, La. — Bayne-Jones Army Community Hospital held their 2023 Soldier and Noncommissioned Officer of the Year Competition Feb. 14-16 at the Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk, Louisiana. The winners, Sgt. Luke Flowers and Spc. Savana Neves, beat out their peers for the title BJACH Soldier and NCO of the Year. They will represent BJACH at the Medical Readiness Command, West Best Leader Competition, hosted by Irwin Army Community Hospital in April at Fort Riley, Kansas.
The three-day competition tested the physical endurance, mental toughness, and the technical and tactical abilities of the participants. Each Soldier completed a written test, an essay, an obstacle course, the Army Combat Fitness Test, combat water survival, land navigation, marksmanship and foot marched more than 20 miles during the competition. Each competitor also sat before a panel of senior NCOs where their military bearing and knowledge was tested.
Command Sgt. Maj. Shavonda Devereaux, command sergeant major, Bayne-Jones Army Community Hospital said all the participants did well.
“Everyone is a winner in my book but only two could earn the title of Soldier or NCO of the year,” she said. “I am immensely proud of their efforts, attitude, and motivation. Sgt. Flowers and Spc. Neves will remain in the history books at BJACH and should be very proud of themselves.”
Devereaux encouraged the others to keep competing.
“For those that didn’t win, I encourage you to continue to strive for excellence. Do hard things,” she said. “It’s the hard things that will separate you from your peers every time.”
Pfc. Preston Tucker, biomedical maintenance equipment specialist, arrived at BJACH in late September.
“Being new and competing in events like this has given me a strong start,” he said.
Tucker said he recommends anyone who is on the fence about competition boards to give it a try.
Neves, operating room specialist and Soldier of the Year winner, said the foot march and the weather were her biggest challenges.
“I competed at the regional competition last year, but I think our competition here has been harder,” she said. “During the foot march, it was so wet, and my feet were hurting, but I just kept telling myself, you made it this far, you can finish this!”
Neves said she is proud of her efforts and gave it her all throughout the competition.
Staff Sgt. George Nolasco, preventive medicine specialist and training NCO for the medical company, said the swim was the hardest part for him.
“I had a traumatic event as a child and have pretty much avoided water my entire life,” he said. “Having the courage to step off the high dive into 12 feet of water helped. It’s important to overcome our fears and take that leap.”
Nolasco said the competition was stiff.
“It’s like the Super Bowl, we didn’t know who would win until the very end,” he said.
Sgt. Kristopher Whitfield, biomedical maintenance equipment specialist, completed the competition with his Soldier, Tucker. Both men represented the medical maintenance department at BJACH.
“These competitions are for anyone, not just medics,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity to get out of the hospital and hone our Army and Soldier skills.”
Flowers, NCO of the Year, said he is always up for a challenge. Flowers works in the BJACH Pathology Department as a medical laboratory specialist.
“Even though I work in the pathology department, I’m a Soldier first,” he said. “This competition is hard, but it has been a nice change of pace. I’ve enjoyed getting out of the office, getting away from my computer and building comradery with the other competitors.”
Flowers said it’s been tough but fun.
“I think it’s been a mental challenge the whole time, you need to dig deep and find your inner motivation,” he said.
Flowers credits BJACH’s leadership for the quality of the competition and the caliber of the competitors.
“Our unit, our first sergeant, our senior NCOs from the command sergeant major on down are some of the best leaders I’ve ever worked with,” he said.
Spc. Taddaniam Green, behavioral health specialist, said he initially went to the Soldier of the month board in preparation for the promotion board and that he just kept winning.
Green said from a behavioral health perspective, a competition like this can be beneficial for overall well-being.
“Even if you’re going through a difficult time; personally, or professionally, facing and conquering difficult challenges will show you that you are better and stronger than you thought you were,” he said. “Don’t be afraid to push yourself to realize your full potential.”
Devereaux encourages Soldiers and NCOs interested in boards to go for it.
“Don’t shy away from the challenge,” she said. “Participation in competition boards will teach you what it means to be well-rounded,” she said “These competitions will expose you to things, teach you about yourself and make you better Soldiers and leaders.