CAMP NIANTIC Conn. -- After a grueling four days of competition, Staff Sgt. Jason Halbach, an internment resettlement specialist assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 192nd Military Police Battalion, was announced as the 2017 Connecticut Army National Guard Non-commissioned Officer of the Year at Camp Niantic Regional Training Institute, March 26.
At the awards ceremony closing out the Best Warrior Competition, Halbach was congratulated by Command Sgt. Maj. John Carragher, Connecticut’s State Command Sergeant Major, and presented with an Army Commendation Medal to commemorate his success.
“It feels awesome [to win the competition]. I was definitely not expecting it because the competition was pretty crazy this year,” Halbach said.
The four-day competition kicked off with an evening Army Physical Fitness Test. The next morning, Soldiers made their way to East Haven Rifle Range for a stress shoot, followed by an afternoon at Stones Ranch Military Reservation for assessment on tasks such as how to use hand signals to move a team during a patrol.
After a few hours sleep, the Soldiers began another tiring day on their feet. They started the day with a 12-mile ruck march, and then moved on to day and night land navigation. The NCOs were given four hours to plot and find four points during the day and three points at night.
On the final morning, competitors donned the Army Service Uniform for the NCO of the Year Appearance Board. Each NCO fought to maintain composure despite the swelling blisters on their feet from the day before and their nerves
The hardest part of the competition was unquestionably the ruck march, said Halbach.
The competitors were required to finish the ruck march within three hours.
“I only made it by with two minutes to spare,” Halbach said. “And only because Sergeant Major [Michael] Collins was riding me for the last mile, just yelling in my ear, ‘You better not quit, you better not quit.’”
Halbach said he felt most prepared for the written test and the board appearance.
“We did some mock boards with the unit, and I did a lot of academic studying,” Halbach said.
Although he didn’t feel the most prepared for the urban stress shoot portion of the competition, Halbach said he had the most fun during that event.
“I had never done live fire shooting under stress before, so not only was it a new experience, it was definitely eye-opening,” Halbach said. “When I was shooting the [9mm pistol] my hands were actually shaking at that point, and I feel like that’s a very realistic feeling to how you would feel in that situation.”
The stress shoot began with the competitors zeroing their weapons then performing exercises to raise their heart rates before and during the qualification with an M4 carbine assault rifle.
“So we did the qualifying, we did a lot of PT,” Halbach said. “Then we took the fifty caliber tripod to the other side and began the [urban] stress shoot. By that point, and after dragging the dummy the length of the course, I was done.”
Halbach’s mentor for the competition was Staff Sgt. Candace Barquin, the Readiness NCO assigned to the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 192nd Military Police Battalion.
“It’s a huge morale boost to have someone with you the whole time and anything I needed she had,” Halbach said.
Halbach will need morale, motivation and might to prepare for the Regional Best Warrior Competition at Fort Dix, New Jersey. Connecticut is part of Region One, which encompasses the six New England states, plus New Jersey and New York. Each state will send their NCO and Soldier of the Year to the regional competition to fight for a spot at the National Best Warrior Competition.
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