VICENZA, Italy - Sgt. Susan Noga, a broadcaster at Livorno AFN, won second place in the Army's annual Keith L. Ware Public Affairs competition in the deployed television news report individual award category for her story titled "Kiowa Warrior Maintainers."

"I decided to do a story on the Kiowa Warrior maintainers because they work behind the scenes, though playing a critical role," said Noga. "The Kiowa plays a crucial role in war zones. They are observation helicopters and they identify the objectives before the Apaches intervene."

Noga said the Kiowa Warrior is a unique helicopter known for the large beach ball shaped imaging system on top of its rotor.

"It takes many skilled hands to maintain these special scout birds," said Noga. "These crew chiefs take pride in their work, knowing that they contributed in many successful missions protecting the land warriors."

The Keith L. Ware Public Affairs Competition recognizes both military and civilian print and broadcast practitioners for journalistic excellence in furthering the objectives of the Department of the Army's internal information program.

Her selection in the number two spot came as a surprise, said Noga.

"I learned about my selection for the KLW from the Public Affairs Facebook page, and I couldn't believe it," she said.

Noga said she took first place in the AFN Europe level competition and first place in the Defense Media Activity level, but she wasn't expecting to be selected at the Department of the Army level, this being the first time she competed and not knowing what to expect.

Noga said she joined the Army after a stint as a broadcaster with a radio morning show.

"The job in radio did not give me the stability I needed so one day, talking to military recruiters, I decided to join the Army," she said. "It was actually a family decision since I joined together with my son."

In her first assignment, Noga served at Fort Bragg with the Military Information Support Group in 2008. From there she was assigned to AFN Livorno in June 2011.

"When I arrived to AFN Livorno I found a fantastic group, who really supported me and helped me with practicing what I had learned," said Noga. "But what really helped more was learning during my deployment to Afghanistan. That experience really finished molding me."

Noga deployed to Afghanistan from June to December 2012. It was a great learning experience, but quite challenging since AFN Soldiers do not normally deploy in groups and she did not know what to expect, she said.

"I was a female Soldier, a little more mature than the others, and I also was a mother," said Noga. "Life experience certainly helped a lot, and at a later age you tend to feel for others a lot more."

She said she did feel a little bit like a mother to her fellow Soldiers, helping them cope with the situation by supporting them, foreseeing difficulties first, increasing security awareness and keeping herself grounded too.

"Deployments are not just about military stuff. It affects you mentally," said Noga. "I did my best to support the other Soldiers and at the same time I learned so much from them."

She returned to Livorno and helped with the closure of the AFN Livorno just two months later. Noga's next assignment will be in Germany, providing Public Affairs support for U.S. Army Europe Command Sgt. Maj. David Davenport, she said.

The new assignment will take her more than a little outside her comfort zone, but the fact that she will have excellent mentors to help her cross train is making her feel more confident and up to the task, she said.

I am extremely excited and I am looking forward to expanding my skills and perhaps next year being able to win first place in the KLW competition," said Noga.