SAGAMI GENERAL DEPOT, Japan -- Eight Soldiers and noncommissioned officers assigned to various units within the 38th Air Defense Artillery Brigade competed in a grueling test of their physical and mental abilities during a quarterly contest here Sept. 5 and 6.
In the end, Staff Sgt. Thomas Hall, assigned to the brigade's 14th Missile Defense Battery, won the title of noncommissioned officer of the fourth quarter, and Spc. Nathaniel Walls, assigned to the brigade's 10th Missile Defense Battery, won the title of Soldier of the fourth quarter.
The competition's events included a height and weight assessment; an Army Physical Fitness Test; a drill and ceremony competition; timed disassembling and reassembling of the M4 rifle, M9 pistol and M249 machine gun; virtual M4 and M9 tests on the Engagement Skills Trainer; a 12-mile ruck march with a three-hour time limit; a written test; and a board before Command Sgt. Maj. Neil Sartain, the brigade's command sergeant major, and other senior NCOs.
"I can tell you, this has been a great last couple of days," Sartain said at the closing ceremony. "Every one of [the competitors] worked tremendously and it was an extremely close competition; it came down to the board."
Hall and Walls both said the competition was difficult, but worth it.
"[After] almost 16 years in the Army, it's pretty amazing [to win]," Hall said.
Walls, meanwhile, said that despite the challenges, he is glad he did it.
"It feels pretty good," Walls said of winning. "Overall, the experience was cool."
Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Ramsey, an organizer of the competition, said brigade organizers chose the events based on common Soldier tasks that are not specific to any military occupational specialty.
"[In] a lot of the events they can identify their critical weaknesses and use that to improve themselves and then also take that back to their units and train their Soldiers," Ramsey said. "Then [all Soldiers] become more proficient in Army standard common tasks."
The winners each received an Impact Army Achievement Medal, Ramsey said. They will also go on to compete in the U.S. Army Japan Soldier and Noncommissioned Officer of the Year Competition.
In addition to the winners, the competitors included Sgt. Simon LaFond, assigned to Battery D, 1st Battalion, 1st ADA; Spc. Perside Mavambu, assigned to the 14th MDB; Pfc. James Moore, assigned to the brigade's Headquarters and Headquarters Battery; Spc. Cody Olesen, assigned to Battery B, 1st Bn., 1st ADA; Sgt. Erick Salazar, assigned to the 10th MDB; and Sgt. Cameron Stine, assigned to HHB.
Lt. Col. James L. Crenshaw, the brigade's deputy commanding officer, spoke at the closing ceremony and asked members of the audience to celebrate the Soldiers and NCOs who participated by emulating them.
"If you're a Soldier out here, an NCO out here, set the example and get up here and do the same thing," Crenshaw said. "This group right here, regardless of the outcome, this is a day you're going to remember for the rest of your career. Don't let this be the last time you do this."
Crenshaw also said the competitors should celebrate their participation, comparing it to an application for his job or Sartain's job 15 years down the road.
"You will remember being in front of the torii gate in front of this brigade, in front of this group in Japan, for the rest of your career and your life, so celebrate what you did to get here and keep pushing," Crenshaw said.