Monday, March 08, 2010
Wisconsin Army National Guard names Soldier, NCO of year
March 8, 2010 - A field artillery Soldier in the second year of his military career and a maintenance company repairman were named the Wisconsin Army National Guard's Soldier of the Year and Non- Commissioned Officer of the Year Sunday (March 7).
Pfc. Randy Fendryk of Waukesha and Sgt. Cody Brueggen of Oconomowoc will advance to the regional Soldier of the Year competition in May, where they will face their counterparts from six other states for the right to advance to the National Guard Bureau's Best Warrior Competition in August.
"The competition was unbelievably tight - again," said State Command Sgt. Major George Stopper. "I will tell you it always works that way, and it always comes down to the last minute, the very last event, to figure out who the winner is. If you kept your head in the game and applied yourself the whole iteration, you never know."
Fendryk and Brueggen earned the distinction of being the Soldier of the Year and NCO of the Year by completing a rigorous schedule of a dozen events - completing a physical fitness test, qualifying on M-4 automatic rifles, competing in hand-to-hand combat drills and answering questions on military knowledge before a panel of three sergeants major. This year's competition included a stress-fire event - in which competitors with an elevated heart rate fire their weapon at a target, simulating real demands in the urban warfare seen overseas - for the first time. Stopper applauded the competitors who did not advance to the regional.
"What an accomplishment," he said. "Those of you not walking out of here with any hardware, walk out of here with your head held way high."
Brueggen said that winning the NCO of the Year competition required a lot of effort. "The competition was very tough," he said. "It's an unbelievable feeling to be standing here."
Brueggen credited his unit leadership and his sponsor, Sgt. Josh Baranczyk - also of the 107th - with his success.
"Without them getting me prepared, telling me where to be, what time, what uniform, I wouldn't be here right now," he said.
Fendryk said winning the Soldier of the Year award was a big deal, and praised his sponsor, Sgt. Troy Kind for his assistance from the battery-level competition on up.
"He told me what I need to study, what areas I should focus on more," Fendryk said. "Everything I've learned in basic and AIT, everything's helped. It's not one thing or another - it's really an accumulation of your Army history."
Stopper recognized each sponsor with a coin and words of praise.
"If you could have sat back and watched the mother hen looks on your faces when your competitor was going into the breach, it was awesome to see Soldiers care that much about fellow Soldiers, worry that much about their performance," he said.
Fendryk, who joined the Wisconsin Army National Guard in February 2009, appreciated the meaning of his selection.
"It's just so rare," he said. "Not many people can say they come up to Fort McCoy for a Soldier of the Year competition. It's just a great feeling to tell [people] it's just going to be me and a few other guys competing to see who's the best Soldier in the National Guard at the state level."
Both Brueggen and Fendryk acknowledged areas they intend to improve before heading to the regional, such as their performance before a board of three sergeants major.
As tough as the state competition was, Stopper said it was a warm-up for the regional, which like the state event will be held at the Wisconsin Military Academy at Fort McCoy.
Stopper said the competition gives the best Soldiers the chance to showcase their skills and compete against their peers. It also gives senior non-commissioned officers the opportunity to interact with some of the best enlisted Soldiers in the Wisconsin National Guard.
"We generally walk around for four days with big smiles on our faces," he said. "Our Soldiers are absolutely phenomenal. Our Midwestern work ethic is evident in all our competitors. Those that endure will come out on top."
Spc. Seth Winchel of Detachment 1, 107th Maintenance Company in Sparta was named 1st Alternate for Soldier of the Year. Sgt. William Atkinson of Headquarters Troop, 1st Battalion, 105th Cavalry in Madison, was named 1st Alternate for NCO of the Year.
Last year, Spc. John Wiernasz of Vadnais Heights, Minn., won the annual Soldier of the Year competition and Sgt. Raymond B. Heilman, Spooner, won the Non-commissioned Officer of the Year competition. Both are members of Detachment 1, 950th Engineer Company, a Spoonerbased unit that specializes in mine clearance. Wiernasz advanced to the Army National Guard's Best Warrior Competition last August at the Warrior Training Center, Fort Benning, Ga.