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Camp Edwards Hosts NCO and Soldier of the Year Competitions 
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2009 Noncommissioned Officer of the Year Sgt. Christopher Olsen (left) of Company C, 1st Battalion, 181st Infantry Regiment, and 2009 Soldier of the Year Specialist Tyson Klay (right) of Company A, 1st Battalion, 181st Infantry Regiment pose for a picture with their Massachusetts Bow Awards presented to them for excellence at Camp Edwards, Mass., March 8, 2009. The Soldiers participated in a three-day competition that began with a test of their marksmanship skills and ended with a 9.5-mile road march to test their endurance. Both Soldiers represented the 51st Troop Command in the competition. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Steve Tedeschi)

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Steve Tedeschi and Sgt. James Lally, Massachusetts National Guard Public Affairs 

MILFORD, Mass. - The Massachusetts Army National Guard held a Noncommissioned Officer and Soldier of the year competition at Camp Edwards, Mass., from March 6 through March 8, 2009.

Eight Noncommissioned Officers competed against each other in the 2009 Massachusetts Army National Guard’s Noncommissioned Officer of the Year competition alongside three enlisted Soldiers who were competing to become the 2009 Massachusetts Army National Guard Soldier of the Year.

All of the Soldiers had to successfully appear before a panel of senior Noncommissioned Officers at their unit, battalion and brigade-level commands in order to be chosen to compete in the state-wide competition.

Spc. Tyson N. Klay, Company A, 1st Battalion, 181st Infantry Regiment, Massachusetts Army National Guard, won the 2009 Soldier of the Year competition representing the 51st Troop Command. Tyson said, “The command felt that I was a good candidate so I took it upon myself to come and compete against other Soldiers. I am happy they had the confidence in me and I’m proud to be representing the Massachusetts National Guard.”The competition was designed to test the Soldiers’ endurance, intellect and judgment by evaluating their performance while performing Army warrior tasks.

Massachusetts State Command Sergeant Major, Command Sgt. Maj. David Costa, said, “I’m pleased with the caliber of Soldiers competing. The competitors’ packets show they all have education past the high school level; have attended numerous service schools; their physical fitness and their motivation is exceptional. I’m very pleased with the unit support this program has received from sponsorship to mentorship.”

The weekend’s first outdoor event was the M16 rifle qualification. The unseasonably warm weather coupled with melting snow provided the Soldiers with an opportunity to fire an M16 rifle while lying in a slush puddle, testing not only their marksmanship but also their discipline.

The national competitions have changed from just a board process to a hands-on physical and mental challenge. So to be sure that Soldiers from Massachusetts were prepared for the regional and national competitions, Massachusetts altered the competition to mirror the national requirements. 

“This is one of the most competitive competitions in Massachusetts. The candidates are required to complete a 9.5-mile ruck march, perform six hands-on-tasks, excel in weapons qualification and stand before a board, all while being observed! Massachusetts is mirroring the national and regional model and it is very mentally and physically challenging,” said Costa.

Sgt. Christopher W. Olsen, Company C, 1st Battalion, 181st Infantry Regiment, Massachusetts Army National Guard, won the Noncommissioned Officer of the Year competition, also representing the 51st Troop Command. Olsen said, “This was more comprehensive mentally and physically, more challenging than just preparing for a board. The basic Soldier skills aren’t things you can just read up on. The events were real challenging, the competition was top notch, and the instructors were highly qualified.”

“Hopefully the competition will grow next year. People are really encouraging leaders and Soldiers to take part in it; it was a really good experience, I would definitely mentor someone next year, that’s part of being a good Noncommissioned Officer,” said Olsen.

The winners of the competition will move on to represent the Massachusetts Army National Guard at the regional competition in New York in May 2009.