COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — The Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC (Economic Development Corporation) held its annual Armed Forces Luncheon May 18, 2023, at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel.
Nearly 300 current military members, retirees, veterans, Department of Defense civilians, government officials and the Colorado Springs community gathered to honor the “best of the best” enlisted military members from the five military installations in the Pikes Peak region.
“We are here today to honor the best of the best,” said Beth Braaten, campus vice president of community relations at Colorado Technical University. “Yes, you are the best of the best. Congratulations to all our nominees.”
The nominees included enlisted competitors from the U.S. Army, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Navy, U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Space Force.
This year there were 16 service members who were nominated and split into three categories: junior enlisted, NCOs and senior enlisted.
Nominees submitted packets and were interviewed by a panel of judges to determine the top enlisted in three categories.
Jim Lovewell, chief operating officer, Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce Military Affairs Council, sat on the Senior NCO panel as a judge and reflected on his experience.
“I was truly touched by the time I spent with the senior NCOs, and I know the other panel members feel the same about their experiences,” said Lovewell. “I came away with a conclusion that our national security is in good hands.”
The three Fort Carson nominees were, Sgt. 1st Class Edmund Kortum, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division; Sgt. Israel Parham, 1st SBCT, 4th Inf. Div.; and Pfc. Damian Chilcote, 1st SBCT, 4th Inf. Div.
“What I saw and read in those nomination packets and during those interviews was phenomenal,” said Kevin Mortensen, chair of the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce Military Affairs Council. “We have some outstanding representatives here today from all of the services.”
Each nominee was presented the eagle head trophy by Master Gunnery Sgt. Scott H. Stalker, command senior enlisted leader, U.S. Space Command.
“I didn’t win but I am truly honored for just being nominated,” said Parham who noted it’s about the contribution to the community and not about the award.
Although the main purpose of the event was to name the three winners it also allowed the community to show their support for enlisted members and their families.
As the keynote speaker, Stalker expressed the important missions enlisted members are conducting to keep the nation from all threats.
“Our enlisted force is defending the homeland. They are at sea … they are leading platoons on the ground and maintaining the aircraft that patrol the skies,” said Stalker. “They are executing cyber space operations and cyber defense missions that we need for our critical infrastructure. They are controlling our satellites in space and in space command helping ensure there is never a day without space."