By Kristin Molinaro, The BayonetMay 11, 2011
FORT BENNING, Ga. - The Ranger Training Brigade dominated Fort Benning's NCO and Soldier of the Year competitions Friday.
Staff Sgt. Raymond Santiago and Spc. Blaise Corbin, of the brigade's 4th Ranger Training Battalion, claimed top honors, and helped RTB close out a sweep of installation competitions it has competed in this year.
Sgt. 1st Class Chris Carbone and Capt. Brendon Terry, both of the RTB's 5th Ranger Training Battalion, previously won the installation's instructor and officer of the year competitions.
NCO and Soldier of the Year runners-up are Staff Sgt. Seth Tracy, of the 198th Infantry Brigade, and Pfc. Michelle Allen, of 1st Battalion (Airborne), 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment.
Santiago and Corbin now compete for the 2011 Combined Arms Center NCO and Soldier of the Year titles at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.
This is the second significant award in as many months for Santiago.
He and teammate, Sgt. 1st Class Mason Riepe, took home the Leandri Award in last month's Best Ranger Competition for being the top orienteering team. The pair finished third overall out of 50 teams in the competition.
"Son, this is awesome! Tan berets representing," said RTB's Command Sgt. Maj. Dennis Smith, congratulating Santiago using a nickname.
Smith said the win is even more significant given what the Soldiers were doing in the days before competition: Santiago was coming off a road march the night before and Corbin, who has been preparing to attend Ranger School, stepped up to fill in for the original SOY competitor, who had shoulder surgery.
Twelve NCOs and Soldiers from brigades across Fort Benning competed May 2 to Thursday after being selected through a series of boards to represent their organization.
Santiago has 10 years of service under his belt, including two years with RTB and two deployments to Iraq.
"I first came into the Army for convenience, because I needed the money and I wanted the benefits, but that (mindset) changed in basic training ... it's very personal now. I am a Soldier, I am proud to defend this country and our flag. I do it because I love it. You're going to have to kick me out of the Army, I'm not going to retire," said the Ranger School instructor.
He's a father of five who credits his family with giving him the support to compete in these events.
"She's my best friend, my Ranger buddy," he said of his wife, who quizzed him on Army doctrine to prepare for the competition. "She could probably beat me on the board answers - she knows more about the Army than I do. She can school me on everything."
Santiago's next challenge will be prepping for the pre-Combat Diver Qualification Course in June.
Corbin has been in the Army less than a year and is an operational forces specialist with 4th RTB's Headquarters and Headquarters Company. In addition to training for the competition, he's also been juggling wedding plans. He and his fiancAfAe marry June 18.
He said studying for the boards was the most intimidating part of the Soldier of the Year competition.
"I was definitely the most worried about it," he said. "I am much more physical than formal so working through all of the formalities was more awkward and difficult then doing a lot of push-ups and running until I can't breathe, that kind of thing."
Next month, Santiago and Corbin will compete against Soldiers from 10 installations, schools and support activities within CAC to represent the Training and Doctrine Command at the Army's Best Warrior Competition Oct. 2-8 on Fort Lee, Va. Twenty-four of the Army's top NCOs and Soldiers from 12 commands will face-off over the course of five days. They will be put through physical and mental tests of their Army aptitude, warrior skills, fitness and ability to conduct battle drills relevant to today's operating environment, officials said. In addition, competitors will go before two selection boards comprised of six senior sergeants major from across the Army and chaired by Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond Chandler.
Winners will be announced during the Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting Oct. 10-12 in Washington.