Sunday, September 30, 2007

Provider battalion names NCO and Soldier of the year

Sgt. 1st Class Angela McKinzie2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI) PAOMulti-National Division - Center
CAMP STRIKER, Iraq - Recently the Provider Battalion honored its noncommissioned officer and Soldier of the year at a ceremony in the Camp Striker Dining Facility.The Soldiers, who serve with the 210th Brigade Support Battalion "Providers," 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LightInfantry) out of Fort Drum, N.Y., were the first to be named NCO and Soldier of the year at the battalion level."I asked a Soldier who had been in the unit for five years if there had ever been any battalion NCO and Soldier of the year," said Command Sgt.Maj. Spencer Gray, 210th BSB, native of Thomaston, Ga. After realizing there had never been a battalion-level competition Gray decided to change the policy. He started holding NCO and Soldier of the month boards upon the unit's arrival to Iraq last August."I wanted to do something different that would inspire the Soldiers to reach for excellence," Gray said. "And why have quarter boards and never allow the winners of the quarter boards to compete amongst themselves?"With Gray's vision in mind, the NCOs and Soldiers began studying to be the first Provider NCO and Soldier of the year.However, winning the title while serving in a combat zone required a little more from each of the competitors."In combat, leaders tend to make excuses of what they can do and what they cannot do due to the mission," Gray said. "I wasn't going to use this excuse to put Soldiers' development on back seat even under the illusion that they didn't have time to read one book - an army regulation or even a field manual." Soldiers were tested on physical fitness, military knowledge, current events, their appearance and hands-on demonstrations such as clearing a weapon and performing a functions test.After a year of competitions, the NCO and Soldier of the year were finally named.Sgt. Esther Kamondo, a native of Nyeri, Kenya, who serves as a squad leader for the 210th BSB's light equipment section, was named NCO of the year. Spc. Farrah Hunkin, a native of Long Beach, Calif., who serves as a training noncommissioned officer with the BSB, was named Soldier of the year."I didn't see me as winning," Kamondo said as she smiled from ear to ear. "I couldn't believe it. The feeling was great."Kamondo, who grew up in Kenya said she had always wanted to be a U.S.Soldier. She moved to the United States in 2003 and worked as a cashier at Burger King. Later she found an Army recruiter and joined the military - as she always wanted to do.Kamondo explained the discipline and time it took to become the NCO of the year."When we came back from missions everyone got to sleep while I was awake studying for the board," she said. "I think the hardest part of the board was cleaning my weapon - that is seven hours of labor for a board."And to ensure her weapon was top notch, Kamondo would walk from her trailer to the place where the board was being held with a cover on her weapon."I didn't want it to get dirty since I just spent so much time cleaning it," she said.And when asked how she earned the NCO of the year title Kamondo simply replied, "When you do something, you should always do it excellently."Hunkin, the Soldier of the year, shared how she felt after finding out she was the winner."I didn't know I was going to do as well as I did," Hunkin said. "I was shocked when I found out I won."Hunkin, who will be promoted to the rank of sergeant Oct. 1, was thankful she attended the boards."I am happy because attending boards has helped me to get promoted," she explained. "Now that the board is over I am being held to a higher standard than the rest of the Soldiers."Gray commented about the winners."Sgt. Kamondo is a very sharp and decisive NCO. I remember when she appeared for the quarter board, I thought, 'oh my'. I've never seen an individual come to a board so sharp with such an enormous level of confidence," Gray said. "She blew me and the board members out of our seats.""Spc. Hunkin is quite smart and a very hard working young Soldier - I would hear her sometimes studying in her office to prepare for the board," Gray said. "She often told me she was going to win the board - positive attitudes get positive results. I'm very proud of their achievements."Despite what others may think about holding boards in a combat environment, Gray realizes the importance of the proceedings."I grew up in the Army under this type of telescope that competition was a morale booster" Gray said. "It entices Soldiers to feel good about being a part of the unit." Each of the winners received a glass Climb to Glory statue, a 10th Mtn.Div. coin, a 2nd BCT coin and a 210th BSB coin."I would like to personally thank the many Soldiers and NCOs who came out and supported our Soldiers during this very special moment for the battalion and to the Soldiers," Gray said.

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