GREENVILLE, Ky. — Twenty-four Soldiers representing every brigade in the Commonwealth competed to determine who would come out on top at this year’s top enlisted, NCO and senior NCO at Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center Aug. 9-12. Nov
This year’s format included some of the new technologies implemented this year. Moving targets were used during the weapon skills portion, and night vision goggles were used for a portion of the competition.
“We’ve added a few new additional events this year,” said State Command Sgt. Maj. Jesse Withers. “The stress shoot was a bit different with the implementation of the robot target tree as well as the implementation of night vision goggles in our competition. As we look forward to future competitions, we will explore how we can continue to innovate.”
Marathon Targets provided targets that moved laterally on a set of wheels to add difficulty for the Soldier Stress Shooting portion of the competition.
Night Vision was incorporated as a special Army Warrior Task that required contestants to navigate a completely dark room, find their fully disassembled M4 rifle, and then reassemble it using only NVGs.
Over three and a half days, Soldiers were evaluated at a total of 16 events, including an Army Combat Fitness Test, an obstacle course, movement and grenade tactics, weapon breakage, and a grueling 12-mile return march.
The Ruck March is the only event that tests the limits of the soldiers’ mental and physical endurance.
The 21-year-old Spc. Garner Offutt of Bravo Battery, 1-623rd Field Artillery, who was selected as Soldier of the Year, admitted the ruck march was the toughest of the events for him.
“The jerk was the biggest mental challenge,” said Offutt. “I’ve ridden a lot of backpacks but the hills here definitely pushed my body to the limit. I’m glad I had Pvt. Stevens and Sgt. Lee jerks with me and helps keep me on track.”
He added that the toughest physical event was the night’s land navigation due to the terrain and plants with thorns snagging and clawing at arms and legs.
Hosting the annual event takes a lot of planning and preparation, but the soldiers of the 238th Regional Training Institute do it impeccably.
“This week has been very busy,” said 1st Sgt. Will Sewell, Petty Officer for the 238th Operation. “A lot of parts have to be moved to make it all come together. It really takes all the brigades coming together as a team to make sure it’s synchronized to pull off the competition for these troops.”
Each of the Soldiers pushed themselves and each other during each of the events. Even when the weather turned from warm to cold and the snow fell on the last day.
“They gave it their all,” Sewell said. “They were pushed to their limits and kept their spirits high. I mean, although sometimes they were unhappy and wanted to give up, they never did. They kept pushing. We have some great Kentucky National Guard Soldiers and NCOs here.”
Overall, the week was a success and with this year’s competition over, Withers has some advice for the next round of soldiers who will be chosen to represent their brigades next year.
“Be prepared,” he said.
The winners were: Soldier of the Year: Spc. Garner Offutt with the Bravo Battery, 1-623. Field Artillery, 138th Field Artillery Brigade; Sergeant of the Year: Staff Sgt. Jared Zerhusen of the 617th Military Police Company, 149th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade; Senior Petty Officer of the Year: Sgt. 1st Class Jonathan Senters of Charlie Company, 1-149th Infantry Battalion.
These warriors will move on to the regional competition in Fort Stewart, Georgia next year.