The U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command Soldier of the Year Competition for 2009 was held at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pa. The competition tested the Soldiers' competence in several areas: day and night land navigation, Army warrior tasks, short range marksmanship, and Army combative skills. This year's mystery event was drill and ceremony as well as a pop quiz about MRMC.
Sgt. Chad Thornton of the Integrated Toxicology Division U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases won the MRMC Soldier of the Year and Staff Sgt. Nicholas J. Rogers of the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense's won NCO of the Year.
Both Soldiers admitted that there were a few challenges.
"There was snow on the ground throughout the competition," said Thornton. The frigid weather conditions throughout the competition added to the challenge.
Rogers found the terrain for the land navigation course to be particularly difficult. "The entire course was on a hill," said Rogers. "The ground was covered with large rocks, leaves, and snow. On top of that, there were a ton of downed trees that required climbing over."
Another challenging event, according to Rogers, required the competitors "to disassemble, reassemble, and perform a functions check on an M2—a .50 caliber machine gun."
"Soldiers in medical MOS's don't get much exposure to weapons that are that large," said Rogers.
Even though there were challenges, the Soldiers persevered.
"Staff Sgt. Rogers is a great example of the representation of the NCO corps in the Year of the NCO," said Sgt. 1st Class John E. Evans, MRICD's senior enlisted advisor. "He set a very high standard of excellence," continued Evans. "We at MRICD are very proud of his accomplishments."
Thornton said he was honored and relieved at the news of winning the competition, but felt "instant pressure" due to the upcoming Medical Command competition in March. The Medical Command competition will be held in Hawaii.