Over the Top with 311th Signal NCO of the Year
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Problem Solving at the 311th Warrior Challenge
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Urban Orienteering during Best Warrior Competition
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Battle Buddies help 311th Signal Soldier of the Year
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FORT SHAFTER, Hawaii - Competitions are often a cutthroat battle to the top, however in the 311th Signal Command (Theater) annual 2011 Best of the Best Warrior Competition, opposing Soldiers pushed one another to become better Soldiers as they clamored for the title here, May 1-6.

Of the seven competing Soldiers representing Signal Commands throughout the Pacific, the 2011 Soldier of the Year winner was Spc. Brian Shepherd II, of the 78th Signal Battalion, Camp Zama, Japan. The 2011 Non-commissioned Officer of the Year winner was Sgt. Harold Stoker, of Alpha Co., 307th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, Helemano Military Reservation, Hawaii. Both 78th Sig. Bn. and 307th ESB report to the 516th Signal Brigade, Fort Shafter, Hawaii.

"It's an outstanding honor and privilege to have been here and to have received this award for the 311th Signal Command," said Stoker. "Representing the 311th Signal Command for future competitions brings a big challenge on me since it's a much bigger playing field, but I'm humbly confident that I will be able to succeed."

Participating Soldiers had similar sentiments. "Everyone was pretty humble and had good character, we weren't trying to take each other down but instead we were all cheering each other on to do better, and experiencing that camaraderie was great," said Sgt. Dave Wittig, 311th SC (T). "It was all about motivation to succeed, so this week it felt more like we were doing team-building and that makes it even more of a healthy competition that builds character."

The 311th SC (T) Command Sgt. Maj. Kevin J. Thompson, and fellow senior non-commissioned officers of the 311th greeted the Soldiers at an icebreaker luncheon at the 45th Sustainment Brigade dining facility May 1. Thompson welcomed the Soldiers and prepared them for the grueling week ahead. Immediately following the luncheon, the competition kicked off with a written exam and essay.

"Although it was a competition, the Soldiers were able to work with one another by providing knowledge they have in certain areas in order to help their fellow battle buddies become better at things such as Army Warrior Task Testing, weapons qualification, and other general military knowledge," said Master Sgt. Martin Jenkins, non-commissioned officer in charge of the event, noting the extraordinary comraderie of the competitors.

"This was a big event that couldn't have been accomplished without assistance from the first sergeants and other senior NCOs within our command and assistance from other units such as the 196th Infantry Brigade and the 18th Medical Command, which provided subject matter experts for the evaluation during the AWTT portion," Jenkins said.

Other challenges of the week included both day and night urban orienteering, Army Warrior Task Testing, a surprise mystery task at the Schofield Barracks Leadership Reaction Course, and a formal sergeant major board. On day two alone, the Soldiers engaged in an Army Physical Fitness Test, an M-4 rifle Range, and finished with a full afternoon of Modern Army Combatives.

"We [the competitors] got along so well that when we finished the Leadership Reaction Course individually, we requested that the leadership allow us to go back through the course together as a team," said competitor Staff Sgt. Rebecca Brooks, who flew to Hawaii from California to represent the 311th's support unit in Costa Mesa.

Thompson said what makes the 311th Warrior Challenge so unique among other Army Warrior Challenges is that the 311th is a multi-component unit. This means that it has Active, Reserve and Deptartment of Army Civilians all under the same command, and therefore can accept competing Soldiers from both the Active and Reserve components of the Army.

"Watching these Soldiers training this week, it was really an inspiration," said Thompson. "All these Soldiers come together for the challenge but what made it even more challenging for the Reserve Soldiers is that they have Civilian jobs and Families to take care of, so they have to take extra time and make extra sacrifices to come here."

The 311th winners will go on to compete in the Network Enterprise Technology Command/9th Signal Command (Army) competition in Fort Huachuca, Ariz., this summer.

"When I got off the plane from Japan, I had to acclimate myself to the Hawaii weather, and there's definitely an altitude and weather challenge in Arizona, so I will be training and preparing myself for NETCOM." said Shepherd. "It's a proud moment to represent my command and the Signal Corps as the 311th Soldier of the Year, and I'm looking forward to winning at the NETCOM level."