FORT MONROE, Va. (Aug. 27, 2010) -- Staff Sgt. Amanda Kokkonen, an advanced individual training platoon sergeant with Alpha Company, 344th Military Intelligence Battalion, Goodfellow Air Force Base, San Angelo, Texas, was named the 2010 AIT Platoon Sergeant of the Year during a ceremony this morning here.
"I'm very taken aback ... there were a lot of good competitors and it was great to know that I was competing against AIT platoon sergeants who strive for excellence every day," she said.
Kokkonen was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal during a military ceremony hosted by Command Sgt. Maj. John R. Calpena, command sergeant major for Initial Military Training, and Lt. Gen. Mark P. Hertling, deputy commanding general for Initial Military Training, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command. The victory came on the same week of Kokkonen's birthday and seventh anniversary of entering the Army.
"It's kind of like a birthday present to myself without even knowing it," she said. "This week really tops it all off."
The competition, which took place from Aug. 24 to 27, featured dozens of events including: warrior tasks and battle drills, written exams, physical exercises, combatives and a board interview by senior noncommissioned officers. During the competition, the competitors were unaware of how their progress after the events and which events were to follow.
"A lot of times, when you go through competitions, you find out how you did after each task so by the end, but not knowing how you did kept it fair and even," she said. "You can train for it so much, but a lot of it comes from experience and learning from your fellow battle buddies."
Now named the best AIT platoon sergeant in the Army, Kokkonen reflects on the challenges that lie ahead.
"What I'm told, I'm going to PCS here and make an active impact on AIT platoon sergeants and be an active voice of a standard and what should change and what should improve about our AIT environment," she said.