August 22, 2012 - Winners of the National Guard Best Warrior
Competition were honored Tuesday at a luncheon at the National Guard
Bureau's Arlington Hall hosted by the Command Sergeant Major of the
Army National Guard, Richard Burch.
(From left to right) Sgt. 1st Class Craig Wester, National Guard
Recruiter of the Year for Arizona, 1st Lt. Nicholas F. Plocar, 6th
Place Best Ranger of the Year of the Wisconsin National Guard, Sgt.
Mathew S. Howard, National Guard Non-commissioned officer of the
Year from Arkansas National Guard, and Sgt. Mark H. Fuggiti,
National Guard Soldier of Year of Pennsylvania National Guard pose
for a photo on a balcony of the Capitol building over looking the
Washington Monument in Washington D.C. on Aug. 21, 2012. As part of
a week long visit to the Washington D.C. where they will also visit
the White House, Pentagon, and Arlington Cemetery receiving awards
and recognition from high ranking enlisted and commissioned officers
of the National Guard. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Alicia M. Brocuglio
130th Public Affairs Detachment Connecticut National Guard
Winners included Sgt. Mark Fuggiti from Penn., the Best
Soldier of the Year, Sgt. Matthew Howard from Ark., the Best
Non-commissioned Officer of the Year, Sgt. 1st Class Craig
Wester of Ariz., Best Recruiter of the Year and 1st Lt.
Nicholas Plocar of Wis., a member of the National Guard's
Best Ranger team.
“The Soldier of the Year, NCO of
the Year and Best Ranger Team are all examples of America's
finest in my eyes,” said Burch. “They have proven that they
have the drive, dedication and competency level to be
successful in anything that they do. They are an example of
what professional citizen soldiers should be, and I am so
proud of them all.”
Among those recognized, Plocar, a
member of the two-man team that placed sixth in the Best
Ranger Team Competition, accomplished a new high for the
National Guard. This was the first year that a National
Guard team finished above tenth place for this competition.
“We are very proud of our Ranger Team,” said Chief
Master Sgt. Denise Jelinski-Hall, Senior Enlisted Leader to
the Chief, National Guard Bureau. “Placing within the top
ten is significant.”
“The Guard sent two teams, and
out of 51 teams, we placed third and sixth, this is the
first time we have ever had two teams finish that high,”
This feat of course came at a cost,
as the Ranger Team had an additional obstacle to overcome,
living in two different states.
To work as a team
from two different states, and get to know each other, train
together, work together and place together is an
accomplishment within itself, said Burch.
Howard were awarded the Meritorious Service Medal for
winning in their respective competitions. Plocar and Wester
were presented coins for their outstanding achievements by
Brig. Gen. Mark Stoppel and Burch during the awards
Burch also addressed the importance of
family to soldiers of the Army National Guard. He
individually thanked and coined the family members present
for their support of their soldiers.
“It is what our
spouses and family do that help make these [soldiers]
successful,” added Jelinski-Hall.
The luncheon is
part of a larger series of events that honors the
outstanding soldiers for their individual accomplishments.
The soldiers will go on a tour of several sites in the
Washington DC area some of which include the Pentagon,
Arlington Cemetery and the National Guard Museum where they
will receive additional honors.
The ceremonies will
culminate with an awards banquet at the Enlisted Association
of the National Guard Annual Conference in Long Beach, Ca.
where the best of the National Guard will receive additional
Even after receiving their accolades from the
National Guard, the competition on is not over for Fuggitti
and Howard. They intend to represent the National Guard and
defend their titles against active duty and reserve soldiers
in an Army-wide competition in October.
“ It is great
to be here among the nation's finest, the United States Army
soldiers should be very afraid because of the quality of the
soldiers of the Army National Guard,” concluded
By Army Spc. Jasmine Walthall
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