From a pool of 13 competitors, one NCO and one junior enlisted Soldier have emerged to become the installation champions. They are Sgt. Elvis Palarchie and Spc. Joshua Cardwell, both of Headquarters, Medical Company, Bayne-Jones Army Community Hospital.
Second-place winners are Staff Sgt. James Gilman and Spc. Alexander Bizyayav, both from the 519th Military Police Battalion, and third-place winners are Staff Sgt. Sergio Alas of the 46th Engineer Battalion and Pfc. David Zanca from 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division. If the first-place winners become unable to attend the Forces Command NCO and Soldier of the Year event, these runners-up will take their place.
During the NCO and Soldier of the Year Banquet held June 6 at the Warrior Center, the winners were recognized by Brig. Gen. Patrick D. Frank, commanding general, JRTC and Fort Polk, and Command Sgt. Maj. David Bass, JRTC and Fort Polk command sergeant major.
“How fitting that we could do this on the 75th Anniversary of D-Day,” said Bass. “It’s a great day to recognize greatness among our ranks.”
Frank agreed the timing of the awards ceremony was in keeping with the spirit of celebrating heroes. “It takes a lot of courage to do what (these Soldiers) have done,” he said. “First they have to stand before their own formations and say, ‘I am the Soldier or noncommissioned officer that wants to compete.’ Then they have to master all the individual skills. Then you need a little teamwork, represented here by our NCO leadership. Our sergeants major here at JRTC and Fort Polk are one of the reasons why our Soldiers do so well in understanding their individual and collective tasks. Thanks for your leadership.”
Master Sgt. Andrew Messick, competition organizer, said he chose the events based on the warrior tasks and battle drills listed in the Soldier’s Manual of Common Tasks — and Louisiana’s unique climate added a layer of challenge to the event.
“The humidity and weather we have at Fort Polk introduced an additional stressor to the competition,” he said.
Messick said events like this are important because they serve as examples of what can be achieved when you put your mind to it.
“We could see the comradery and shared suffering of these Soldiers, each laboring under 45-pound rucks, but they hung in there,” he said. “It wasn’t easy, but they are all better Soldiers for doing it.”
Some of the events featured in the competition were:
• Army Combat Fitness Test
• Confidence course
• Packing list inspection
• Drownproofing skills
• Urban orienteering
• Army knowledge test
• 15-mile ruckmarch
• Claymore, improvised explosive device, communication and grenade lanes
• Medical assessment under fire and call for 9-line medical evacuation lane
• Call for fire, detainee search, weapons assembly and chemical agent lanes
• Land navigation over 8 miles
• Weapons assembly of M4, M9 and M249
• Weapons proficiency/stress shoot
• Appear before a board in dress uniform
Palarchie, who is originally from Montego Bay, Jamaica, said he found the drownproofing lane to be the most difficult, and the stress shoot the most fun.
“The shooting lane was easiest for me because I love shooting,” he said. “To train for the next event (Forces Command-level competition), I will have to work more field events, including weapons skills, communications and call for fire, because those are things we don’t get much chance to work on as medical personnel.”
His advice for anyone considering next year’s competition is to ruck — a lot. “It’s really hard, so you have to dedicate yourself, execute and above all, be resilient,” he said. “Every time you go out, take it one mile at a time and you will do well.”
Cardwell, a native of Murrieta, California, said for him, the greatest challenge was performing calls for fire, and he agreed with Palarchie that the stress shoot was the most fun.
“It (calls for fire) was something I had never done, so I had to learn on the fly and figure it out as I was going,” he said. “Shooting was definitely the most fun, because it’s always fun to shoot.”
Cardwell said he will focus on more of his warrior tasks as he prepares for the FORSCOM event. “Things like call for fire, weapons assembly and function checks.”
Both Soldiers said their weapon of choice is the M4.
Capt. John Parker is the company commander for Headquarters, Medical Company, BJACH, and described both of his winning Soldiers as “fantastic.”
“They are aggressive, high-performing individuals,” he said. “They are both very motivated. I think seeing members of our team performing at that level significantly impacts the morale and motivation of the rest of the company. It sends a message to the other (medical) Soldiers that this isn’t just a competition for Soldiers on the line.”
Sgt. 1st Class Teresa Bocanegra, acting first sergeant of Headquarters, Medical Company, BJACH, said Palarchie and Cardwell set the example for the rest to follow. “The fact that they had the motivation and drive, even during the harder parts of the competition, to dig deep and complete the task speaks volumes about them.”
In addition to the Army Commendation Medal, each first-place winner received a slew of prizes from various sponsors, including:
• $150 gift card from Christus
• $100 gift card from American Warrior Networks
• $260 trip package from Benoit Ford
• $100 gift card from Taboo Harley-Davidson
• $500 gift card from Barksdale Federal Credit Union
• $500 gift card from USAA
• $250 gift card from the Vernon Parish Chamber of Commerce
•A Weber Grill and Yeti cooler from Southwest Beverage
• $250 gift card from the Leonaidas Chapter of AUSA
• $250 gift card from GEICO
• $150 gift card from Sabine State Bank
• $450 gift voucher for the Golden Nugget Casino from Corvias Military Living
• A chartered fishing trip from Alford Motors.
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