Utah Soldier Named Army National Guard

Soldier of the Year


By 2nd Lt. Ryan Sutherland


Published October 15, 2008


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Photo by Sgt. Chris Gardner

Utah National Guard Soldiers gather outside Rice-Eccles

Stadium prior to the Governor's Day parade Sept. 13.

FORT BENNING, Ga. — Specialist Jeremy Whipple, of Utah’s Echo Company, 1st Attack Helicopter Battalion, 211th Aviation Regiment, was named the 2008 National Guard Soldier of the Year during a competition held August 11-13 at Fort Benning, Ga.

Whipple, along with twelve other finalists, had to qualify at the unit, major command, state and regional levels to reach this national competition. 

Competitors quickly found that the events were much more physically demanding than what they had experienced at the regional level.  The grueling three-day competition was designed to physically wear the competitors down before testing them on common soldier skills.  

Photo by Spc. Samantha Xanthos

Staff Sgt. Chandler Scovil, 151st Air Refueling Wing, holds his unit's colors as Soldiers and Airmen stand in formation during the Governor's Day parade.

The competition began with a modified Army Physical Fitness Test, followed by waterborne events, warrior tasks and drills which included performing a functions check on an M16A2 rifle, calling for artillery fire, emplacing and recovering an M18A1 Claymore mine and evaluating and treating a casualty. The contest also included events that were new to the competitors, such as the stress shoot, combative training and urban operations.

For Whipple, that preparation involved becoming combat-lifesaver and Level-one combative qualified, additional PT, foot marches, weapons training and long nights of studying for the board.

“I prepared the same way as I did for the state and region competitions,” he said.  “I prepared for a standard PT test, a 5-mile road march, a standard rifle qualification, etc.  I was a little concerned when I heard that the WPFT (Warrior Physical Fitness Test), which includes pull-ups and a 5-mile run instead of the usual two miles, a 12-mile road march up the “Stairway to Heaven”, a stress-shoot rifle qualification, and a Combat Water Survival Test thrown in as well.  I hadn’t prepared for any of that.”

Photo by Staff Sgt. Emily Monson

Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, left, and Maj. Gen. Brian Tarbet

render a salute during the playing of the National Anthem.

Whipple entered the competition with a chronic hamstring injury, and suffered a foot injury midway through the events, making his win all the more remarkable.

“I might have hurt my foot while overcompensating for my hamstring and calf during training,” he said.  “I lost a lot of points in the road march and land-navigation course due to the injury.  What kept me going is that, frankly, I’m my own worst critic. I more than made up for the lack of pressure to win, by putting more pressure on myself to not quit, fail or embarrass myself or my unit.”  

Despite losing points in events he considers are his greatest strengths, Whipple excelled throughout the majority of the competition, which in the end established him as the total package.

He credits the training his unit provided him and the support of his family and sponsor for his success.

Photo by Lt. Col. Hank McIntire

Members of the Utah Air National Guard pass

in review at Rice-Eccles Stadium Sept. 13.

“Whatever it took, they made it happen,” Whipple said.  “My battalion CSM, readiness NCO, and first sergeant were all involved from the very beginning and made sure the required paperwork was done, range time was provided, weapons were found, combative instructors were found and the list goes on.”

The winners of the Soldier and NCO of the year were announced during the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States’ 37th annual conference.

“When we were standing on the stage and the command sergeant major of the Army National Guard announced my name, I was blown away,” Whipple said.  “I’m still not completely sure it’s sunk in.  What I do know is that it was absolutely humbling to receive a standing ovation from a huge crowd comprised of that caliber of Soldiers and Airmen.”

Whipple’s next test is to represent the Army Guard’s more than 323,000 enlisted men and women this October at the Department of the Army’s Soldier and NCO of the Year competition held at Fort Lee, Va.