FARGO, N.D. - Members of the North Dakota Army and Air National Guard were recognized last night for achievements this past year. Officers, Soldiers and Airmen who rose to the top of their peer groups were named during the Professional Development Workshop in Fargo.

"This group of Soldiers and Airmen are among the best of the best," said Maj. Gen. David Sprynczynatyk, North Dakota adjutant general. "We have nearly 4,400 Guardsmen in North Dakota, and those recognized here tonight rose to the top of that pool through their extreme level of dedication to serving their state and nation. I'm proud to honor them for their vast achievements."

A stiff competition this past year resulted in two Soldiers being named the "Best Warrior" in North Dakota. The competition, previously called the "Soldier of the Year," included questions from a board of sergeants major, a physical fitness test, warrior task testing, marksmanship and hand-to-hand fighting. In the end, Staff Sgt. Jason P. Lothspeich was named the Best Warrior for the noncommissioned officer category and Spc. Justin A. Huber was named the Best Warrior for enlisted Soldiers. Lothspeich lives in Minneapolis and serves with the 817th Sapper Company in Jamestown, and Huber, of Jud, N.D., serves with the 191st Military Police Company. Runner-up in the enlisted Soldier competition was Spc. Nathan J. Svihovec, of Bismarck, who serves with the 816th Engineer Company in Dickinson. Lothspeich and Svihovec, who will go in Huber's place, now advance to the regional Best Warrior competition in Alaska in June, where they'll go up against Soldiers from Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, South Dakota, Washington and Wyoming.

Officers of the Year were selected by North Dakota's National Guard Association of the United States, or NGAUS, chapter, a professional organization that many North Dakota National Guard members choose to join. In the North Dakota Air National Guard, Maj. Jerrad Krapp was named Field-Grade Officer of the Year and Capt. Grant Larson was named Company-Grade Officer of the Year. Krapp, of Fargo, serves with the 119th Operations Group, and Larson, of Fargo, is the 119th Maintenance Squadron commander. For the North Dakota Army National Guard, Maj. James R. Olson was named Field-Grade Officer of the Year and Capt. Amber Monette was named Company-Grade Officer of the Year. Olson, of West Fargo, N.D., is currently deployed to Kosovo. Later this year, he'll return to his full-time National Guard job as the operations and training officer for the 141st Maneuver Enhancement Brigade. Monette, of East Grand Forks, Minn., recently returned from a yearlong deployment to Afghanistan where she served as the commander of the 1st Battalion, 188th Air Defense Artillery Regiment's RAID III (Rapid Aerostat Initial Deployment) mission. She works full time as the Battalion's training officer.

Airmen of the Year, who were named during last weekend's banquet in Moorhead, were recognized again. Senior Airman Eric. R. Foss, of Minot, serves with the 219th Security Forces Squadron and was named Airman of the Year. Staff Sgt. Wesley J. Heit, of Bismarck, is part of the 119th Maintenance Group; he was named Noncommissioned Officer of the Year. The Senior Noncommmissioned Officer of the Year, Master Sgt. Shane J. Amundson, lives in West Fargo and serves with the 119th Logistics Readiness Squadron.

All of the Guardsmen honored during the evening also were presented a plaque and flag set from the North Dakota American Legion for their accomplishments.
Since the 2001 terrorist attacks on America, the North Dakota National Guard has mobilized more than 3,500 Soldiers and more than 1,800 Airmen in support of the Global War on Terrorism. Currently, about 800 North Dakota Guardsmen are serving overseas. With a total force of about 4,400 Soldiers and Airmen, sufficient forces remain in the state for emergency response and homeland defense.