SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii— The 500th Military Intelligence Brigade-Theater held its Noncommissioned Officer (NCO) and Soldier of the Quarter competition for second quarter, fiscal year 19 on Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, Jan. 30-31.
The NCO and Soldier of the Quarter competition is the culminating test for NCOs and Soldiers throughout the brigade to compete in a two-day competition which challenged each competitor’s knowledge, skills and physical abilities.
In spite of the unusual cool temperatures and rain, the six competitors donned their Kevlar, Improved Outer Tactical Vest (IOTV), and 35lb rucksacks and began the competition with a 6-mile foot march, immediately followed by a M4 zeroing and qualification and a sprint, drag, carry.
“We are always taught to train as you fight,” said Sgt. 1st Class John M. Swearingen, Noncommissioned Officer in Charge (NCOIC). “When you have competitions like this, it is really testing you on your knowledge and what your abilities are under stressful situations.”
“This is a good self-check to see where you are at, and what are your strengths and weaknesses,” Sweaigen added. “You don’t have to come in being the best and knowing you’re the best. If you truly want to be a professional and keep doing this, then you know what you need to fix and work on.”
For some of the competitors, this was a new experience that they courageously set out to take on. For others, it was a continued learning and developing experience from previous competitions.
“The competition was everything that I expected and more,” said Spc. Darren Ambush, signals intelligence analyst, Headquarters Operations Company (HOC), 715th MI Battalion. “I learned resilience, and camaraderie. Although we were competing against each other, I feel like we all tried to motivate each other throughout the whole competition.”
On day one, there were a total of seven stations set up in various locations on the installation, in which the competitors walked and carried their rucksacks to each point on the map provided for them. As the competition went on, the suspense of the unknown next task motivated the competitors to keep moving forward to the end.
For Sgt. Benjamin Smedema, a signals collection analyst, Company A, 715th MI Battalion, the most challenging part of the competition and what he dread the most was the formal board.
“Everything else I can either dig deep to get through it or have fun with it, but not the board,” said Smedema. “You are put on the spot and every fraction of detail is scrutinized. You have to be on your “A” game.”
It doesn’t take a perfect NCO or Soldier to compete. With preparation, determination and the ability to adapt and overcome in any environment, these competitors represented what it means to be Army strong.
“Volunteering is half of the battle,” said Ambush. “Try your best to be well-rounded and look forward for support. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. The process is much easier when you look to NCOs who thrive on developing Soldiers.”
Smedema and Ambush were named the brigade’s NCO and Soldier of the Quarter for the 2nd quarter of fiscal year 19 and awarded an Army Commendation Medal during an award ceremony at the end of the competition.
“I may compete in more competitions,” said Smedema. “But I’d love to motivate and encourage my Soldiers while they compete in a Best Warrior Competition.”
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