By By Steve Arel, U.S. Army Cadet CommandMarch 29, 2012
The award for 2012 Cadet Command NCO of the Year might only have Sgt. 1st Class Heriberto Reyes' name on it. But he'll tell you that winning wasn't a solo effort.
"I didn't do this by myself," he told his competition sponsor Thursday after being named this year's winner.
Of course, it was Reyes who sweated it out during the PT test. It was Reyes who traipsed through the Fort Knox, Ky., landscape to find points on the land navigation course. And it was Reyes who was peppered with questions from five sergeants major during a board finale.
He couldn't have performed so well, he admits, without the help of others who pushed him in the months leading up to the command's competition that began Tuesday on post.
Vying against Reyes, an instructor at Augusta State University in Georgia, were Sgt. 1st Class Timothy Bare, of North Georgia State College and University, Staff Sgt. Nestor Torres, of 2nd Brigade headquarters, and Sgt. 1st Class Justin Hamblin, of Siena College.
With the victory, Reyes advances to the Training and Doctrine Command competition this summer at Fort Eustis, Va. Torres, Cadet Command's runner-up, will take Reyes' spot if Reyes is unable to compete.
Reyes shined in the Cadet Command event from the start, posting a 273 in the opening PT test. He then went on to hit 34 out of 40 targets during weapons qualification, and built a lead by finding all four designated points on the land navigation course.
It turned out to be a lead he'd never relinquish.
"He worked hard, and earned it," said Master Sgt. John Price, the senior military instructor at Augusta State and Reyes' competition sponsor. "The best warrior won."
Price, Reyes' wife and a handful of Augusta State Cadets helped prepare Reyes for the competition over the last couple of months. They would routinely rattle off questions dealing with everything from drill and ceremony to first aid to NCO development -- from Price and Cadets during the day at school, and from his wife at night at home.
Teaching basic skills such as land navigation to students, Reyes said he was able to hone his abilities. And his dedicated PT regimen kept him from being drained physically, as evidenced by the quick pace with which he successfully negotiated the obstacle/basic skills course that wore down some of his competitors.
"I look at each event as its own," said Reyes, a Puerto Rican-native and 13-year Army veteran. "If I don't do well in one, it doesn't make or break you. You just continue to put your best food forward."
Command Sgt. Maj. Hershel Turner, Cadet Command's command sergeant major, applauded the effort of the four contestants, saying he was proud of their showing.
Command Sgt. Maj. Darin Smith, 1st Brigade command sergeant major who served as president of the board, challenged the participants to pass along their experiences to other Soldiers and to encourage them to compete in the future.
"They need to start getting ready now," he said. "By the time it's show time, they're ready."
This year's NCO field called the competition challenging and liked that it tested all facets of soldiering.
Torres and Bare said they found land navigation and the obstacle course to be among the toughest events. Land navigation from the standpoint that the hilly and brush-covered terrain presented a host of barriers they hadn't encountered. And the obstacle course made lasting physical impressions.
"I've got bruises, ribs hurt, tightness," Torres said. "I felt it."
Having units conduct such regular activities -- not necessarily for a competition, but for camaraderie and development -- would go a long way to strengthening the Army as a whole, he said.
"It's been a hellacious two months (preparing), but I liked it because it challenged me," Torres said. "At the end of the day, win or lose, it's made me a better NCO."