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,” concluded Burch.
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.
Fuggiti and 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 ceremony.
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 honors.
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 Jelinski-Hall.
By Army Spc. Jasmine Walthall
Provided through DVIDS
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