Two Utah Soldiers Named Region 7

Soldier and NCO of the Year

 

By 2nd Lt. Ryan Sutherland

 

Published June 24, 2008

 

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Staff Sgt. Jennifer Butler, 640th RTI, emplaces a Claymore mine  during the Region 7 NCO of the Year competition this spring.

Photo by Ray Carsey

Staff Sgt. Jennifer Butler, 640th RTI, emplaces a Claymore mine

 during the Region 7 NCO of the Year competition this spring.

CAMP WILLIAMS, Utah — Two Utah Army National Guardsmen have been named the best among their fellow Soldiers to represent Region 7 at the national 2008 Soldier of the Year competition held August 10-13 at Fort Benning, Ga.

Specialist Jeremy Whipple, a member of 1st Battalion, 211th Aviation, and Sgt. 1st Class Jennifer Butler, 640th Regiment (Regional Training Institute) were awarded the Region 7 Soldier and NCO of the Year, respectively.

“I was actually really shocked,” replied Butler when asked what it felt like to win.  “I knew it was going to be close, but I wasn't expecting to win. I always just try to do my best in what I am doing and hopefully that's enough.”

“It was a huge honor,” added Whipple.  “I was very proud to have represented my unit and family well and made them so proud.  I was lucky that the event was held here in Utah, making it possible to have many of them at the awards ceremony to share the moment, making it much more special.”

Spc. Jeremy Whipple, 1-211th Aviation, left, receives instructions from a Region 7 grader during the competition held at Camp Williams.

Photo by Ray Carsey

Spc. Jeremy Whipple, 1-211th Aviation, left, receives instructions from

a Region 7 grader during the competition held at Camp Williams.

The Region 7 competition includes Soldiers from the eight states and territories to include Arizona, Colorado, California, Guam, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah.  The event is designed to select the best Soldiers to compete at the national level for the honor of best Soldier and NCO of the year for the National Guard.

Command Sgt. Maj. Bruce Summers, Joint Forces Headquarters, was the event organizer. He talked about the improved standards of this year’s event compared to previous years.

“We’ve been doing this type of competition for three years now; this is the fourth year,” he explained.”  “Prior to this, Soldiers would just go before a formal board.  They’d have maybe three or four sergeants major and they’d just walk in with a class-A uniform and whoever could recite or memorize this book that had all of the questions in it would usually win.”

Staff Sgt.Jennifer Butler, left, and a 211th Aviation Soldier enjoy a moment between events.

Photo by Ray Carsey

Staff Sgt.Jennifer Butler, left, and a 211th Aviation

Soldier enjoy a moment between events.

“Now it’s become a total package, and now I think overall we’re selecting better Soldiers who are willing to compete,” Summers continued. “This says a lot about the quality of individuals that they are.”

When asked about the amount of time each Soldier had to prepare for the competition, Summers explained that some states have an advantage. 

“Part of it is because of the region and the weather,” he said.  “Arizona and California, they did their boards late last year. We don’t have the luxury to do this because our ranges didn’t open up until March. We completed our board the last weekend of March, and then the region competition was in the first weekend of May.” 

That left one month for the Utah Soldiers to prepare for the event, which makes their wins that much more remarkable. 

Spc. Jeremy Whipple and his fellow competitors hastily get their azimuths in gear before the Land Navigation event.

Photo by Ray Carsey

Spc. Jeremy Whipple and his fellow competitors hastily get

their azimuths in gear before the Land Navigation event.

And training for an event like this falls solely on the Soldier.

“It’s up to the person,” Summers said.  “We don’t have an organization out there that’s going to take them under their wing and train them.  They’re going to have to learn on their own and work [it around] their civilian job.”

“I did a lot of ruck marching and PT (physical training),” Butler said about her preparation for the event.  “I also had to try and fit in an hour of studying a day.  Some days I was able to study that long, and others, it just didn't work.”

Whipple credited much of his success to his wife, friends and fellow Soldiers in helping him prepare for the competition.

“I had a ton of help from my sponsor, everyone at my unit, my wife and my first sergeant,” Whipple said of his preparation.  “Anything I needed, someone was right there to help me.  I couldn't have done it without them.”

“I think [it’s] their ability to perform under pressure,” Summers said when asked what made the Utah Soldiers stand out. “Some of those events are timed; you have so many points to pick up and a timeline to do them in.  There’s a lot of pressure, and to perform under that pressure usually brings the cream of the crop up to win.”

Staff Sgt. Jennifer Butler, left, at the awards ceremony with Command Sgts. Maj. Joseph Spencer, center, and Bruce Summers.

Photo by Ray Carsey

Staff Sgt. Jennifer Butler, left, at the awards ceremony with

Command Sgts. Maj. Joseph Spencer, center, and Bruce Summers.

Spc. Jeremy Whipple, center, honored as Soldier of the Year, flanked by Command Sgt. Maj. Bruce Summers, left, and other Utah Guard leaders.

Photo by Ray Carsey

Spc. Jeremy Whipple, center, honored as Soldier of the Year, flanked by Command Sgt. Maj. Bruce Summers, left, and other Utah Guard leaders.