JRTC and Fort Polk announces NCO, Soldier of Year By JEAN DUBIEL Guardian staff writer
FORT POLK, La. –– What does it take to become the best at what you do? Two Soldiers at Fort Polk can answer that question as they are the 2016 Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk Soldier and Non-commissioned officer of the year: Pfc. Collin Morgan and Cpl. Boguslaw Sakhan, both of the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division.
These Soldiers spent nearly a year competing at battalion and brigade boards, then participated in an intensive, three-day competition at Fort Polk. The competition included the Army Physical Fitness Test, a packing list inspection, day and night land navigation, 6-mile foot march, medical situation lane, air assault obstacle course, weapons proficiency station and weapons zero and qualification. They were also required to write an essay and appear before a board to test their technical and tactical knowledge.
A total of 11 candidates competed to become the best at JRTC and Fort Polk — seven Soldiers and four NCOs. Smartly dressed in their service dress blues, these candidates filed into the Warrior Community Center June 17 for a banquet and the big reveal — none of them knew who had won. Once the winners were announced, they were both presented with an Army Commendation Medal, as well as tokens of appreciation from commercial sponsors. These gifts included a Ka-bar knife, an electric guitar and hundreds of dollars in gift cards.
Morgan said it was a “big honor” to be selected as the 2016 Soldier of the Year.
“I’m proud to represent the (2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment) and show everyone the type of Soldier it produces,” said Morgan. His next goal is to attend Ranger School, and he said this competition was a good primer for it. “I think it helped prepare me for Ranger School — especially the scenarios and the physical events. This experience has helped me learn how to manage my thoughts and I think it was a good practice for what lies ahead.”
Morgan’s platoon leader, 1st Lt. Nathan Billisits, said he was proud of him. “He is the kind of Soldier that is already doing the right thing before you have to ask him,” he said. “He works hard and is an expert at his craft.”
Sgt. 1st Class Bret Richardson, Morgan’s platoon sergeant, expressed his pride as well. “He is one of my model Soldiers. If I could have a whole platoon of guys like him, it would be great. He never hesitates to push himself and he sets the bar a little higher each time he does.”
Billisits and Richardson also had high praise for Sakhan. “He is the hardest working individual in the platoon. He’s always looking to improve himself and those around him,” said Billisits.
“He has the will and desire to do big things in the Army and I think he will.”
Richardson said, “He is hungry to be a leader and continues to prove himself again and again to be a good leader; and he does it not just for himself but for his Soldiers.”
Sakhan said winning NCO of the Year means a lot. “By doing this, you set yourself apart. It sets an example for your peers and shows that if you have the heart, you can win, no matter what,” he said. “And all the pain, the loss of sleep, the wet clothes, it’s all worth it. It is an honor to be considered the best at Fort Polk.”
Sakhan said he hopes that one day he will be able to sponsor someone going through the competition.
Lt. Col. Aaron K. Coombs, commander, 2nd Bn, 2nd Inf Reg, has the unique distinction of having both the Soldier and NCO of the year emerge from his organization.
“Command Sergeant Major (Thomas) Abbott and I, and the (2nd Bn, 2nd Inf Reg) team are incredibly proud of the preparation, professionalism, and performance of Corporal Sakhan and Private 1st Class Morgan and their NCO support chain that trained them. (Abbott) and I both visited several of the competition events and were uniformly impressed with how well the competition was run,” said Coombs. “We are appreciative of the Fort Polk command team’s commitment to resourcing the competition and the recognition of the Soldiers and NCO’s that competed.”
After the presentation of awards and prizes, the competitors, sponsors, peers and leadership lined up to shake hands with the winners and offer their congratulations.