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Story by: Eric Durr - New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs
Dated: Tue, Mar 30, 2010
A college student with a perfect 300 score on the Army Physical Fitness Test, an Iraq veteran and expert marksman, and an AGR NCO who was born in Ireland , were named the best in the New York Army National Guard by a panel of senior NCOs on Sunday, March 28 following a demanding weekend competition.
Spec. William Hoch, a 26-year old student at Medaille College in Buffalo and a member of the 105th MP Company with a perfect 300 score on the Army Physical Fitness Test was named Soldier of the Year for 2010. Hoch, a Buffalo resident, has worked as a technician for the guard since enlisting in 2008.
Staff Sgt. Joshua Todd, a 28-year old Watertown resident and contractor in civilian life who instructs at Infantry requalification courses run by the 106th Regional Training Institute, was named the top traditional NCO of the Year. Todd, who earned the Combat Infantry Badge while serving in Iraq with the 2nd Battalion 108th Infantry, holds the coveted German Army Schutzenschnur badge, awarded for proficiency with Bundeswher weapons.
And Sgt. Sean Cronin, who was born in Ireland in 1984, and now serves at the Admin NCO for Headquarters Detachment of the 204th Engineer Battalion, was picked as the AGR NCO of the Year. “These Soldiers and NCOs are among the best and the brightest, “ said New York National Guard Command Sgt. Major Robert Van Pelt. "They exemplify the high standards we expect of our National Guard Soldiers and they will do well as a future leader in the New York Army National Guard," he added.
The Soldiers were picked from nominees forwarded from all major New York Army National Guard Commands. The final selection by the board of Command Sergeants Major was based on their performance before a board, and their ability to excel at key Warrior Skills.
The Soldiers and NCOs were tested on their ability to search a vehicle, evaluate a casualty, react to an improvised explosive device, employ a Claymore mine, function check an M203 grenade launcher and communicate effectively.
They were quizzed on knowledge on military history, drill and ceremony, land navigation, first aid, NCO history, survival skills, and training. They were also evaluated on their wear of the Army Class A uniform.
Hoch, the Soldier of the Year, who has worked as a technician in the military personnel director at state headquarters, has been awarded the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and the Army Physical Fitness Ribbon. His commander praised him for consistently volunteering for duty when needed.
“To tell you the truth I never thought I could do something like this,” Hoch said.
Others around him, particularly 2nd Lt. Benjamin Berry, his platoon leader, encouraged him to enter the competition, Hoch said.
“I told him I get very nervous in front of others, “ Hoch said. “ He convinced me to compete. He had the confidence in me that I was lacking.”
The toughest part, was studying for the board, Hoch said. But he felt like he was representing his company and battalion and he wanted to do well.
“My little brothers need someone to look up to and I a, trying my best to be that someone, “ he explained.
Todd, the traditional NCO of the Year , joined the Army National Guard in 2001, and served in Iraq in 2004-2005 with the New York Army National Guard’s 2nd Battalion 108th Infantry. While in Iraq he conducted 180 combat patrols and 60 Air Assault Missions; operations in which soldiers are inserted in by helicopter
He has trained in Thailand and Germany and has provided security augmentation to local law enforcement in New York City and has also assisted in securing the Indian Point nuclear power plant complex.
Todd has been awarded the Combat Infantryman Badge, the Army Achievement Medal, the Medal for Merit as well as the Germany military Schutzenschnur badge.
He got into the running for best NCO because he likes a challenge, Todd said. It was tough studying for the board, “because they always seem to ask you the question you don’t know well” but he was supported the whole way by his chain of command.
He’s looking forward to pit himself against the best National Guard NCOs in the northeast in the regional competition coming up, Todd said.
“It’s going to be a challenging experience. There are going to be a lot of great Soldiers there,” he said.
Cronin, a 26-year old Johnson City resident who was born in Ireland, joined the AGR program in 2008. He enlisted in the National Guard in 2006. He started out in the AGR program in the battalion S-1 as acting personnel NCO and is now unit administrator.
His awards include the Army Commendation Medal, the National Defense Service Medal. The Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and the Non Commissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon.
For Cronin, studying for the board questions while handling his duties as unit administrator was the biggest challenge facing him in the competition.
“Our Optempo for our battalion has been very tough this year, the fulltime manning in my company was tasked to assist the 827th Engineer Co in pre-mobilization,” he said.
“ There have been some long day’s and nights in the office preparing the unit for mobilization, balancing mission accomplishment and getting ready for the state board was a challenge,” he explained.