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Deployed Fort Campbell Rakkasan troops compete for Soldier/NCO of the Year in eastern Afghanistan

 

Written by Capt. Charles Emmons
3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (AA) Public Affairs

RakkasanFort Campbell KY, 101st Airborne Division

Jalalabad, Afghanistan – Junior Soldiers and noncommissioned officers from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, competed at Operational Base Fenty, September 5th, 2015, for the title of Train, Advise, Assist, Command-East’s Soldier and NCO of the Year.

A total of six Soldiers, who previously qualified through a quarterly competition, participated in several activities. After the completion of the events, Sgt. Alexandro Garcia and Spc. Steven Byone were declared the winners.

Sgt. Alexandro Garcia, 3rd BCT, 101st Airborne Division, fires his M4 rifle during a stress shoot as part of the Train, Advise, Assist, Command-East Soldier and Noncommissioned Officer of the Year competition in eastern Afghanistan, Aug. 5, 2015. (Capt. Charles Emmons, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (AA) Public Affairs)

Sgt. Alexandro Garcia, 3rd BCT, 101st Airborne Division, fires his M4 rifle during a stress shoot as part of the Train, Advise, Assist, Command-East Soldier and Noncommissioned Officer of the Year competition in eastern Afghanistan, Aug. 5, 2015. (Capt. Charles Emmons, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (AA) Public Affairs)

Both Soldiers represented Troop A, 1st Squadron, 33rd Cavalry Regiment. Recently their platoon sergeant, Sgt. 1st Class Drew Castergine was inducted into the Sergeant Audie Murphy Club while deployed, demonstrating a common goal for success within the formation.

“There’s a lot of trust within this platoon. That really does drive each individual of this platoon and allowed Sgt. Garcia and myself to succeed, because our platoon trusted us to succeed,” said Spc. Byone. “Our platoon sergeant winning the Audie Murphy board, that was a huge motivational factor for us.”

Competitors started the day with a Ranger Physical Fitness Test, which consists of a minimum criteria of 49 pushups, 59 situps, six chin-ups, and a release run of five miles conducted in less than 40 minutes. If Soldiers did not successfully meet baseline scores for the physical fitness events, they were eliminated from the competition.

In addition, participants faced a challenging schedule of events which included the assembly of three weapons, an obstacle course, a marksmanship range, and written and oral board tests on a variety of Army topics. The competition also included a “mystery event” that required Soldiers to find objects hidden in thick brush several meters from the participants with a pair of binoculars.

The 3rd BCT, 101st Airborne Division Soldiers run past the Operational Base Fenty entrance in eastern Afghanistan during the Train, Advise, Assist, Command-East Soldier and Noncommissioned Officer of the Year competition, Aug. 5, 2015. (Capt. Charles Emmons, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (AA) Public Affairs)

The 3rd BCT, 101st Airborne Division Soldiers run past the Operational Base Fenty entrance in eastern Afghanistan during the Train, Advise, Assist, Command-East Soldier and Noncommissioned Officer of the Year competition, Aug. 5, 2015. (Capt. Charles Emmons, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (AA) Public Affairs)

“The participants gained valuable training in physical fitness and leader development”, said Command Sgt. Maj. Walter Tagalicud, the senior enlisted adviser for TAAC-E.

Event organizers encountered unique challenges while planning the competition in a deployed environment that wouldn’t exist back in Fort Campbell. The participants were limited to the space available on an operational base that is large enough to service an airfield, but too small to conduct traditional competitive events.

“One event that was missing is land navigation due to the operational environment,” said Tagalicud.

The limitations did not make the competition easier however, as the difficulty of some events were increased.

“In Afghanistan, we administered the Ranger Physical Fitness Test instead of the traditional Army Physical Fitness Test,” said Tagalicud. “We incorporated the obstacle course to raise their heart beat and synchronized that to the stress shoot. The event was also designed to be a continuous event starting at 0500 until it was completed.”

A similar board conducted in a non-deployed environment would unfold over several days, according to Sgt. Maj. Tagalicud.

Experienced NCO unit sponsors actively helped the competitors prepare for the competition.

“My sponsor played a huge role in helping me build up my confidence and my physical fitness to help me perform the way I did,” said Garcia.

The TAAC-E event was the first competition since the organization was established last November as Operation Enduring Freedom transitioned to the Resolute Support mission. Soldiers from 3rd BCT, 101st Airborne Division, 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, and 3rd Infantry Division are currently serving under TAAC-E, whose primary mission is to provide mentorship and advise Afghan National Defense and Security Forces throughout eastern Afghanistan.

This event was the last deployed competition for most of the participants, as the 3rd BCT, 101st Airborne Division Soldiers are preparing to redeploy soon to Fort Campbell, Kentucky.


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