Paralegal Warriors compete for best in USARPAC
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Paralegal Warriors compete for best in USARPAC
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FORT SHAFTER, Hawaii -- You have a specialist who can't seem to stay out of trouble. He just disrespected a noncommissioned officer, reported late for another formation and recently tested positive for marijuana on the last urinalysis.

You've done all you can to help him, collected a counseling packet thicker than a novel and now it's time to take it to the next level. You need a paralegal, but not just any paralegal in the United States Army, Pacific, you need the best.

Lucky for you, United States Army, Pacific Staff Judge Advocate hosted a five-day Paralegal Challenge Sept. 21-25 to find the top Paralegal NCO and Soldier in the Pacific. Sgt. Jovanny Suarez, Tripler Army Medical Center, and Spc. Mark Schubert, 8th Theater Sustainment Command, bested eight other competitors from Hawaii, Japan and Alaska to be named this year's top paralegal warrior.

"The title (of best Paralegal NCO) means a lot to us," Suarez said. "I think the other paralegals see you in a different light. My peers know what I did here and how hard this competition is so it's a great honor for me to win."

The Paralegal Warrior Challenge tested the competitors on their Military Occupational Skills and their Warrior Tasks, but more importantly, gave the paralegal community a chance to show off their skills and talents as Soldiers.

"The reason we do this event here in USARPAC is to showcase our paralegal warriors so there's a little more visibility from the command," said USARPAC Command Paralegal NCO, Sgt. Maj. Michael Maestas. "We want the command to see that our Soldiers aren't just paper pushers but are in fact warriors as well."

During the MOS portion of the competition, paralegals were tested on their knowledge of Article 15s, military correspondence, administrative separations and had to complete a 100-question general legal knowledge quiz.

During the tactical portion, they were tested on several warrior tasks, including applying a tourniquet, reading a map and providing aid to a casualty with heat exhaustion.

"I think it's important for everyone to have a competition," said last year's NCO winner, Staff Sgt. Juan Santiago, USARPAC Staff Judge Advocate. "It's important that our skills are sharp because we have to be ready to deploy. This (competition) helps make us better leaders."

The Regimental Command Sergeant Major of the Judge Advocate General's Corps, Command Sgt. Maj. Troy Tyler, was also on hand to view the competition.

"This competition is great because it gives these Soldiers from the USARPAC footprint, including Alaska and Japan, a chance to come together and meet their peers and fellow competitors," he said. "They network; they get the skills and train together. I get to see what the competition means to them and have a chance to talk to them all in one setting."

According to Maestas, the grueling five-day test gave the competitors a chance to test their mettle against the best of USARPAC.

"The hardest part is the stress involved with all of the tests," he said. "There are a lot of senior paralegal NCOs out here that are observing the training and there's a lot of pressure on these Soldiers. The thing that's the toughest is that they have to endure the stress of taking test after test after test."

Pvt. Thomas Eisiminger, Headquarters Company, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, came in second place, but he already has plans to come back even more prepared next year.

"As an E-2, I've never really been to anything like this before," he said. "But I know that next year, I'm going to prepare more by looking up the (SJA) regulations because those are the bread and butter of this job."

At the end of the competition, Command Sgt. Maj. Joseph Zettlemoyer, USARPAC command sergeant major, awarded each of the winners an Army Commendation Medal.

"Sometimes the job that we do seems like a thankless job," Maestas said. "We work behind the scenes, taking care of everything that our commanders need. We are grateful for the opportunity to show everyone that our Soldiers do much more than type up Article 15s, chapters and courts-martial. They are in fact warriors first who just happen to do legal work."