By Rick Rzepka, Fort Campbell CourierJune 9, 2010
FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. -- Two Soldiers walked away as winners of the 2010 Installation Management Command-Southeast Noncommissioned Officer and Soldier of the Year.
Sergeant Stephen J. Hartley of Fort Campbell and Spc. James P. McGraw of Fort Bragg, N.C., took NCO and Soldier of the Year, respectively. "It feels great," said Hartley. "It's good to know that all the hard work and long nights paid off in the end."
Hartley and McGraw faced off against eight other Soldiers in late May to take the top honors at this year's event held at Fort Campbell. "I feel what I was doing worked well, and I will continue to train the way I trained before only with a couple of small tweaks added in," said Hartley on preparing for his next challenge. "I'm reading from the Ranger handbook a lot more, and I will be doing battle drills and land navigation more often."
McGraw said that the key to success was staying focused on the task at hand.
"The competition was as tough as we, the competitors, wanted to make it," he said. "We weren't being asked to perform tasks we have never done before, we were being graded on our ability to perform Soldier tasks to standard without any external help. There were times I was tempted to look back at the moments where I tripped and lost focus on the next task ahead of me. I just had to remember what several good NCOs have told me: that I need to just focus on the next task ahead of me because I can't change the past. I can only do better on the future."
The two top-notch competitors reaped the benefits of their successes, as they not only walked away with honor, but with a plethora of perks as well. "I was honestly surprised by the prizes. I didn't know until people came on stage to begin awarding us prizes that we would be receiving any," said McGraw.
Several generous sponsors from around the area donated prizes for the winners.
"Altogether I received over $550 in gift cards, a war-fighter knife, a couple of great gift bags, a $1,000 savings bond, an Army Commendation Medal, and I will be representing IMCOM-SE at the next level. It was nice to see the local community make such generous donations to this competition," he said.
Command Sgt. Maj. Mark Herndon said that the Soldiers will walk away from this year's competition with more than just prizes.
"It is an experience they can brag about," he said. "The winners received awards that will ultimately be worth promotion points, and the NCOs can place bullets on their NCOERs. Both the NCO and Soldier will have lifelong memories as well as trophies to show.