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Minnesota National Guard
Point Your Compass to Maintain a Competent Ready Force

Minnesota National Guard Which way does your compass point you?  For a handful of very capable and competent Soldiers who spent April 10 - 14, participating in the Soldier of the Year competition, the needle pointed  toward success  Participants pushed themselves both physically and mentally in order to determine the best Soldier and NCO in the Minnesota Army National Guard and to earn the opportunity to represent the Minnesota Army National Guard in the following regional competition Winners of the event were Staff Sgt Jeremy Gettel from the Recruiting and Retention Battalion, and Spc Robert Kohanek from the 34th Military Police Company These winners will now be competing at the Region IV Best Warrior Competition on 13-16 May at the Marseilles Training Center in Illinois

During the competition Soldiers completed the Army Physical Fitness Test, a Stress Fire exercise, weapons qualification, a 12-mile road march and combatives In addition, these Soldiers have navigated through the Camp Ripley confidence course, land navigation course and completed a combat water survival test They also wrote an essay, completed an exam and were evaluated by a military board which tested their Army knowledge and Soldier skills "It's a great time to test yourself and what you really know You find out what you're made of," Spc Stupka described "The final appearance and knowledge board is all about how you present yourself and staying relaxed under pressure"

Each Soldier is paired with a mentor who helps support them through the competition  Sponsors are often squad leaders who have a skill set to help participants gain further knowledge during the course   Sgt Paul Rocha from B Company, 2nd Combined Arms Battalion, 136th Infantry is a sponsor "There is an expectation in order to get to state level," he said Participants have to have an Army Physical Fitness Test score of 290 or higher and be an expert shooter scoring 38-40  In my eyes, all of these Soldiers have won and proved a point to make it this far!" 

Competitor Sgt Martin White, 34th  Military Police Company in Stillwater is proud to be a participant in the competition "All Soldiers should be able to do the stuff we are doing  This competition gives us more knowledge and better training," he said  "I am competitive so I enjoy that  I want to win so it motivates me  You just need to stay motivated and try your best"

The land navigation event began on the third day of competition with a briefing from 1st Sgt Rodney Vredenburg, from the Army Regional Training Institute "When a Soldier is traveling in Afghanistan, often times electronic systems go down and Soldiers need to know terrain association and how to identify land markers," he said "When I was deployed we were traveling over five hours with just a map and compass"

Vredenburg passed along a witty tip for land navigation, "No matter what you do or where you go, there you are," he joked

Spc Robert Kohanek,  who went on to win the Minnesota National Guard title of Soldier of the Year, assessed the task at hand, land nagivation in cold weather "For this event you will get warm, avoiding sweating and staying dry will be critical in this exercise, " he said 

In a one square mile, rugged and snow laden course, the land navigation event required participants to identify five points within 35 hours They'd be back at it again later in the evening for another three points without the sun  Along with winter weather gear and tools such as a map, compass, protractor, pencil and water, Soldiers also carried enhanced dismount instrumentation that provided live tracking of their location in the course 

The men and women in this competition take the profession of being a National Guard Soldier very seriously  "A ready force means becoming a leader, and that's what I am training my Soldier to become," said Sgt Justin Johnson, 34th Military Police Company, who was mentoring Kohanek "These are guys that are determined, resilient and knowledgeable, they want to learn and are the example of BEKNOW DO

The Soldiers in the Soldier of the Year competition are expected to pass along their knowledge and leadership to their peers  Sponser Sgt Edell Paguyo, 147th Human Resource Company explained,  "It's not all physical, there's a mental aspect too  Being in this competition helps open the Soldier's eyes  They are able to go back to their units and mentor other Soldiers and provide leadership about the skills they developed and it is better received" 

In the end, a competent, ready force is made up of Soldiers who strive to be leaders These Soldiers are led by an internal compass that drives them to excel physically as well as mentally   

By Staff Sgt Jennifer Rechtfertig
Minnesota National Guard Public Affairs
April 18, 2013

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