Rancher Ropes in Top Warrior Title
(October 16, 2008)
Army photo by Staff
Sgt. Jon Soucy
||ARLINGTON, Va., Oct. 14,
National Guard noncommissioned officer, recently
named as the Army National Guard's NCO of the
Year and the Army's Warrior of the Year, said
the best warrior is the one who knows when he
Staff Sgt. Michael Noyce
Merino (photo left), honored Oct. 6 at the
Association of the U.S. Army's annual meeting
and exposition in Washington, credits free
counseling sessions he received through Military
OneSource with helping him cope with stresses
that accumulated during combat tours in
Afghanistan and Iraq.
“That really helped me,” Noyce Merino
Noyce Merino won the Army Guard's final competition in
mid-August at Fort Benning, Ga. That achievement allowed him
to match his skill and knowledge against 12 soldiers
representing the Army's other major commands for a final
Best Warrior competition at Fort Lee, Va., Sept. 30 to Oct.
3. He won the Army's competition to his great surprise, he
"I'm equally proud of winning [both competitions]," Noyce
Merino said. "They were both difficult in their own way."
Noyce Merino explained that the Guard's competition was more
physical with its 12-mile road march and land navigation
events, while the Best Warrior competition challenged his
marksmanship and ability to think under pressure.
"We're fortunate to have all those soldiers – regardless of
component – compete,” Lt. Gen. Clyde Vaughn, director of the
Army National Guard, said. “Those are the best of the best.
It's a big moment for the Guard, and it's also a big moment
for the Army."
Noyce Merino joined the Guard after his release from active
duty in 2007 and returned to his family's 21,000-acre cattle
ranch in Montana. He also works as a shipping supervisor for
United Parcel Service, and he praised that company for its
support of his service.
"Now that we have settled down on the ranch, we hope to
start a family," he said. "Right now we are building the
operation and developing a functioning [cattle] business.”
Noyce Merino was home-schooled and grew up on the ranch.
"It's what I knew and loved until I joined the [active duty]
Army," he said.
His 2001 active-duty enlistment took him immediately to
battlefields in Afghanistan. "I was in basic training when
the 9/11 attacks happened," he said. "So right away, I knew
I was going into combat."
He attended airborne school, was assigned to the 82nd
Airborne Division and deployed for six months. He returned
home only to deploy to Iraq for eight months.
"After that, I re-enlisted into the 4th Infantry Division at
Fort Hood [in Texas]," he said. He returned to Iraq for an
additional 12 months.
On one patrol, Noyce Merino used his combat lifesaver skills
to apply two tourniquets to a fellow soldier after a mortar
attack in Baghdad. "He had extensive shrapnel wounds and
arterial bleeding in both legs, and was going in and out of
consciousness," he said. The patrol transported the soldier
to an aid station within nine minutes and was credited with
saving his life.
During the recent Best Warrior competition, Noyce Merino
said, he faced a similar medical scenario that required
treating a wounded leg.
"Those who had not been in that situation saw what it was
like to treat a casualty under fire," he said. He added that
the competition simulated battlefield conditions well. "The
Army and the Guard should do as much of that as they
Though he's proud to have been honored, Noyce Merino said
he's just one of many deserving soldiers.
"I don't consider myself to be the best," he said. "There
are a lot of soldiers and sergeants right now who are
deployed, who are serving, and their duty prevents them from
competing. I'm more of a representative of all NCOs and all
soldiers in the Army. I'm an example of what it takes to be
one of the best."
By USAF Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith
Special to American Forces Press Service
Air Force Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith serves
at the National Guard Bureau.
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