By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterJune 13, 2012
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (June 14, 2012) -- Fort Rucker named its best of the best at the Noncommissioned Officer and Soldier of the Year ceremony June 8 at the U.S. Army Aviation Museum.
Sgt. Derek Czerniak, B Company, 1st Battalion, 210th Aviation Regiment, and Sgt. Bradley Boone, 98th Army Band, were both surprised as their names were announced as the winners for U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker NCO and Soldier of the year, respectively.
"I'm actually kind of shocked," said Czerniak. "I wasn't expecting to make it this far … all of the competitors gave me a good run for my money -- no doubt."
Boone said he was just as surprised when his name was called.
"We weren't made aware of this before today," he said. "It's quite an honor to be able to represent my unit and compete against the other fine competitors for this award."
Also recognized was the Soldier of the third quarter, Spc. James Guffey, 98th Army Band, and NCO of the fourth quarter, Staff Sgt. George Lambert, NCO Academy.
Competitors for the award came from different units and competed from the battalion level through the brigade level on to the post level, according to Command Sgt. Maj. James H. Thomson, Aviation Branch command sergeant major.
"We've got bandsmen from the great 98th Army Band, mechanics, crew chiefs, air traffic controllers and flight operation Soldiers that competed," he said. "We've got a nice representation of the Aviation community that came out to compete for this great honor."
The NCO of the year winner said the competition consisted of physical fitness tests, hands-on competitions and multiple board appearances where competitors are asked questions at random regarding regulations and knowledge they should be familiar with.
The competition is not an easy task to get through and both winners emphasized that it takes a lot of time and effort to compete.
"[The competition] is rigorous and it does take time," said Czerniak. "You can't learn this stuff overnight -- it takes months of training and lots of muscle memory."
"It takes time to gather all this knowledge and be physically ready for it," Boone added.
Thomson commended the winners and all of the participants on the commitment that the competition demands.
"The path to get here is not easy," he said. "[The competitors] all have full-time jobs as Soldiers and leaders. It's really a lot of hard work, and I will tell you and they will tell you, too -- they are not doing it for themselves."
Those that win are awarded with gifts ranging from money and gift certificates, to plaques and memberships to various organizations, but the main reason that Soldiers compete is to represent their unit, according to Czerniak.
"I didn't do it for the perks," he said. "I appreciate all the accolades that I'm receiving, but I did it to represent my unit and I hope I've done that well."
Thomson said that the competitors' willingness to go through the demanding competition to represent their unit is a testament to their character.
"It shows their commitment to our Army profession," he said. "They are the epitome of what the Army profession is about."