98th Training Division Selects Soldier, NCO and Drill Sergeant of the Year

05/06/2021  |  Maj. Michelle Lunato 98th Training Division Public Affairs Officer
image

Staff Sgt. Darell Thompson, 4th Battalion, 323rd Regiment, 2nd Brigade, finishes out the 12-mile ruck march strong as the first competitor in at the 98th Training Division (IET) Best Warrior Competition at Fort Jackson, South Carolina on March 5. Thompson, who came out to put 323rd “on the map,” won the title of Division NCO of the Year upon completion of the four-day competition. U.S. Army Reserve photo by Maj. Michelle Lunato

.

Soldiers, noncommissioned officers and drill sergeants from across the 98th Training Division (Initial Entry Training) competed in the 2021 combined Best Warrior and Drill Sergeant of the Year Competitions at Fort Jackson, South Carolina March 4-8

The 24 Iroquois Warriors representing the division’s three brigades tested both their physical and mental strength during the four-day competition. Day One, which was also the travel day, had the competitors complete an equipment shakedown and written essay after in-processing. Day Two started before sunrise with the Army Combat Fitness Test and and ended well into the evening when the Soldiers completed both day and night land navigation courses. Day Three included another predawn event, the 12-mile ruck march. Immediately after that, the tired competitors moved into the Fit to Win Obstacle Course, which was then followed up by maneuvering through a separate, 16-stage obstacle course. However, the Day Three was still not over at this point. After the obstacles, the competitors were told to clean up and prepare for an Army Board. Day Four concluded the competition with a rifle qualification range and then finally, the announcement of the winners.

In the Soldier of the Year Category, Spc. John Fowler from 4th Battalion, 323rd Regiment, 2nd Brigade claimed top honors. The first and second runner-ups for Soldier of the Year were also two 2nd Brigade Soldiers: Spc. Evan Riddle from 4th Battalion, 323rd Regiment and Spc. Christopher Martin from 3rd Battalion, 321st Regiment.

In the Noncommissioned Officer of the Year Category, Staff Sgt. Darell Thompson from 4th Battalion, 323rd Regiment, 2nd Brigade seized the win. The runner-ups for NCO of the Year were Staff Sgt. Jorge Ramirez from 3rd Battalion, 518th Regiment, 2nd Brigade and Sgt. Scott Kissiah, 3rd Battalion, 485th Regiment, 1st Brigade, respectively.

In the Drill Sergeant of the Year Category, Staff Sgt. Kendrick Felder from 2nd Battalion, 485th Regiment, 2nd Brigade took home the title. Coming in behind him were Staff Sgt. Joshua Kanipe from 3rd Battalion, 323rd Regiment, 2nd Brigade and Sgt. Brian Gutierrez from 2nd Battalion, 415th Regiment, 1st Brigade.

Though Fowler, Thompson and Felder won their perspective categories, there was no time to rest and celebrate as they moved on to represent the Division at the 108th Training Command’s combined Best Warrior and Drill Sergeant of the Year Competitions at Fort Jackson April 5-10.

Of course, the fact that they claimed the Division titles, doesn’t mean the competition was easy for these Soldiers. In fact, they struggled just as much as their fellow competitors.

“The competition was brutal,” said Felder, who is a licensed massage therapist on the civilian side. “It did what it was designed to do. It pushed our limits, mentally and physically.”

The strenuous pace and order of events in the competition certainly put a toll on every Soldier, said Thompson, who came in first on the 12-mile ruck march.

“You have to really be mentally tough to make it through these courses.”

Discovering that strength is the exact reason why each division winner wanted to compete in the first place though.

Thompson, who came out to “put 323rd on the map,” said Soldiers can never discover their limits until they try.

“You don’t know how far you can push your limits, until you’ve been pushed far enough.”

Participating in the competition was a perfect opportunity for Felder to test his readiness. The Division DSoY said he’s been regularly training, working out and studying, so the competition was a nice way to evaluate the effectiveness of his efforts.

“I’ve never competed before, so I wanted to test my limits to see where I would fall. I ended up doing pretty good. There are areas I can work on still, but you never know where you are until you test it.”

Fowler, who is a full-time employee at Lockheed Martin Corporation and student at Troy University (studying kinesiology, wellness and fitness), used the competition as a way to test his skills as well, specifically marksmanship, something he admits to struggling at.

“The most challenging [task] for me has always been weapons qualification. So I practice the fundamentals on my own time, using my own weapon.” All the personal training paid off in the end too, said the Division Soldier of the Year.

Spc. John Fowler, 4th Battalion, 323rd Regiment, 2nd Brigade, low crawls in an obstacle course stage during the the 98th Training Division (IET) Best Warrior Competition at Fort Jackson, South Carolina on March 5. Fowler, who is a full-time employee at Lockheed Martin Corporation and student at Troy University (studying kinesiology, wellness and fitness), won the title Division Soldier of the Year upon completion of the four-day competition. U.S. Army Reserve photo by Maj. Michelle Lunato Staff Sgt. Kendrick Felder, 2nd Battalion, 485th Regiment, 2nd Brigade, clears an obstacle during the 98th Training Division (IET) Best Warrior Competition at Fort Jackson, South Carolina on March 5. Upon the conclusion of the four-day competition, Felder was named the Division’s Drill Sergeant of the Year. U.S. Army Reserve photo by Maj. Michelle Lunato

“That was the most enjoyable part, to go out there and shoot expert.”

With the next level of competition coming up, each Soldier now had a better idea of what they needed to work on. For Felder, he realized he could improve on his ruck march and board skills. For Thompson, he identified his opportunity area to be land navigation, specifically night land navigation.

“It can be a little tough going through the woods at night by yourself,” said the NCO of the Year.

Staff Sgt. Joshua Kanipe, 3rd Battalion, 323rd Regiment, 2nd Brigade, listens to a question at the Board during the 98th Training Division (IET) Best Warrior Competition at Fort Jackson, South Carolina on March 5. Upon the conclusion of the four-day competition, Kanipe was named the Division’s Drill Sergeant of the Year Runner-Up. U.S. Army Reserve photo by Maj. Michelle Lunato

For Fowler, now that he’s improved his marksmanship, he turned his focus on land navigation skills, since he only found four out of the seven points.

“I am shooting for seven out of seven at the 108th Competition.”

Other than being tired, each of the Division Warriors said they have no complaints. In fact, they all appreciated the opportunity for training and the chance to prove themselves.

“It’s nice to be recognized. It really is...and those trophies are beautiful. I am really happy about that. They are going to look good on my desk.”

Staff Sgt. Darell Thompson from 4th Battalion, 323rd Regiment, 2nd Brigade, navigates an obstacle during the 98th Training Division (IET) Best Warrior Competition at Fort Jackson, South Carolina on March 5. Thompson, who came out to put 323rd “on the map,” won the title of Division NCO of the Year upon completion of the four-day competition. U.S. Army Reserve photo by Maj. Michelle Lunato Sgt. Renial Campbell, 2nd Battalion, 417th Regiment, 3rd Brigade, plots her points at the day land navigation course that was part of the 98th Training Division (IET) Best Warrior Competition at Fort Jackson, South Carolina on March 5. Upon the conclusion of the four-day competition, Campbell was named the 3rd Brigade’s NCO of the Year Runner-Up. U.S. Army Reserve photo by Maj. Michelle Lunato

 

Command Sgt. Maj. Ian Coyle, Division Command Sergeant Major, speaks to Soldiers waiting for their turn before the Board during the 98th Training Division (IET) Best Warrior Competition at Fort Jackson, South Carolina on March 5. U.S. Army Reserve photo by Maj. Michelle Lunato Staff Sgt. William Lloyd, 2nd Battalion, 389th Regiment, 3rd Brigade, jumps over an obstacle during the 98th Training Division (IET) Best Warrior Competition at Fort Jackson, South Carolina on March 5. Upon the conclusion of the four-day competition, Lloyd was named the 3rd Brigade’s Drill Sergeant of the Year. U.S. Army Reserve photo by Maj. Michelle Lunato
Staff Sgt. Kendrick Felder, 2nd Battalion, 485th Regiment, 2nd Brigade, reports to the Board during the 98th Training Division (IET) Best Warrior Competition at Fort Jackson, South Carolina on March 5. Upon the conclusion of the four-day competition, Felder was named the Division’s Drill Sergeant of the Year. U.S. Army Reserve photo by Maj. Michelle Lunato Sgt. Brian Gutierrez, 2nd Battalion, 415th Regiment, 1st Brigade, moves across a beam on the obstacle course during the 98th Training Division (IET) Best Warrior Competition at Fort Jackson, South Carolina on March 5. Upon the conclusion of the four-day competition, Gutierrez was named the 1st Brigade’s Drill Sergeant of the Year. U.S. Army Reserve photo by Maj. Michelle Lunato
   
   
   
   

 

Comments & Ratings
rating
  Comments

There is no comment.