Six U.S. Army Soldiers took part in the two-day challenge to see who could become the noncommissioned officer and Soldier of the month. The challenge included an evaluation on each competitor’s knowledge of the M16 rifle and M9 pistol, a physical fitness test, 4-mile ruck march, and tests on casualty evaluation and weapons qualification.
Spc. Briana Conway, a Connecticut National Guard Soldier from 1st Battalion, 169th Aviation Regiment, out of Windsor Locks, Connecticut, said the competition is not something she would have entered back in the United States, but the deployed environment pushed her outside of her comfort zone.
“I was hesitant when asked to take part in this competition, but now I’m glad to have challenged myself,” Conway said. “Having the extra support from my unit is what encouraged me to participate.”
“Doing the events in the competition helped me realize this is another opportunity to practice and familiarize myself with the required skills needed to be a better Soldier,” she said.
U.S. Army Sgt. Ryan Roop, a National Guard Soldier from the 1st Squadron, 150th Cavalry Regiment, out of Bluefield, West Virginia, said the Kosovo deployment has offered Soldiers many opportunities to grow and advance. Roop was named December’s top NCO at the end of the competition.
“Getting to do the Basic Leader Course, German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge, and now the Soldier of the Month competition, makes this more than just a mission-focused deployment,” Roop said. “It has helped me develop professionally as well.”
U.S. Army Spc. Landon Smith, a North Carolina National Guard Soldier from 1st Combined Arms Battalion, 252nd Armor Regiment, was named the MNBG-E’s Soldier of the Month.
“[Smith] was selected specifically by the command sergeant major of the battalion to compete,” said Staff Sgt. Erick Cole, also from the 1-252nd, and Smith’s sponsor for the competition.
“I have worked with Smith for the majority of his career, and going into this deployment, I needed a team leader,” Cole said. “Smith stepped into the role and did a great job.”
“I feel like the battalion competition prepared me for this event,” Smith said. “It has really been a busy two weeks for me doing both events.”
“This was a tough challenge,” he said. “It definitely covered a lot of areas regarding leadership skills, weapons systems and basic Soldier knowledge.”
“I believe doing the Soldier of the Month competition while deployed helps Soldiers stay focused and well-rounded,” Smith said.
“The training, the competitions and the chance to see other parts of Europe has made for a great experience on this deployment,” he said. “If anything, I feel like I’ve expanded my knowledge as a Soldier, which will better prepare me for my career choices in the future.”