U.S. Army Reserve

 

Deldonno, Ochoa named U.S. Army Reserve Best Warriors

By Sgt. David Turner | 214th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment | June 19, 2017

June 16, 2017 -- FORT BRAGG, N.C. – After an intensive week of competition, two U.S. Army Reserve Warriors have earned the titles of U.S. Army Reserve Soldier and NCO of the Year, at the 2017 Army Reserve Best Warrior Competition.

The winners were announced at an awards ceremony at the Iron Mike Conference Center, here, June 16.

Cpl. Carlo Deldonno, of Lexington, Massachusetts, representing the 3rd Medical Command (Deployment Support), was named U.S. Army Reserve Noncommissioned Officer of the Year, and Spc. Kenny Ochoa, of Winnetka, California, representing the 79th Sustainment Support Command, was named U.S. Army Reserve Soldier of the Year.

Deldonno, a combat medic assigned to the 804th Medical Brigade, in Devens, Massachusetts, has competed here before – he was the 2016 ARBWC Soldier of the Year runner-up. Though everything this year was a surprise, he said, competing last year gave him the determination to try again, as an NCO this time.

“I’m really honored to be the NCO of the Year,” said Deldonno. “I’ve been trained by so many fantastic NCOs.

“The BWC has provided the most realistic combat training I’ve received in the Army Reserve, by far – the magnitude of it was impressive and it was very well-run,” Deldonno said.

Ochoa, a watercraft operator assigned to 481st Heavy Boat Transportation Company in Port Huenerne, California, was born in Guatemala and became a U.S. citizen in 2014, the year he enlisted in the Army. Ochoa doesn’t just shoot for the stars as a Soldier; his ultimate ambition, he said, is to one day become an astronaut. To that end, he’s currently working toward a degree in physics.

Ochoa said he was moved by the honor of the award. “It’s unreal. It’s overwhelming,” he said. “It gives me a lot of motivation to go on to the next competition.”

Both Warriors succeeded in winning competitions at their respective commands to earn the chance to compete at the U.S. Army Reserve competition. Now they will both represent the U.S. Army Reserve while competing against their counterparts in the Army National Guard and active Army to try and earn the titles of the 2017 Army NCO of the Year and Soldier of the Year, at a competition held later this year at Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia.

In past years, U.S. Army Reserve Warriors have won the Army-level competition four times in the past decade – Spc. David Obray, 2008; Sgt. 1st Class Jason Manella, 2013; Staff Sgt. Andrew Fink, 2015; and Sgt. 1st Class Joshua Moeller, 2016.

U.S. Army Reserve Command Sgt. Major Ted Copeland said the Warriors who made it to the competition displayed the best of what the U.S. Army Reserve stands for, and in them he sees the future of the force.

“These Best Warriors represent the core values of America’s Army Reserve, the initiative, the drive, the personal courage. They will take these values and what they’ve learned in this competition with them, and pass it on and grow it.”

The competition tested Warriors on a wide range of Soldier skills and knowledge, from combat skills, land navigation, physical fitness, first aid, to appearing before a command sergeants major board, weapons qualification, and several “mystery events.”

In some ways, these Warriors go back to basic combat training, refreshing skills they first learned when they enlisted, but reacting to situations without guidance or feedback from drill sergeants. Some events are go-no-go events; Warriors who fail these are immediately sent home. Of 40 who began the competition, only 22 survived to the final day of competition.

A typical day for the Warriors started before dawn, and involved movement by UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, then land navigation skills to maneuver through forested terrain, assembling various weapons, responding to an actual tear gas attack, and swimming about 300 meters across a lake with a rifle – and all before lunch.

“Reserve Soldiers always surprise me. They are always dedicated,” said Master Sgt. Randall Rader, head of the cadre of drill sergeants from the 95th Training Division that supervised the event. “Sometimes they have to get trained up on skills because we don’t do it every day, but I think you can never doubt the commitment of an Army Reserve Soldier. They are not only employed in a full-time job, but they are employed in what is more than a part-time, critical job in the Army Reserve.

“I think Army Reserve Soldiers are some of the most impressive Citizen-Soldiers we have,” said Rader.

“Throughout the week, these Warriors exhibited the leadership skills they needed to succeed and survive to the end. While it is a competition, ultimately the U.S. Army Reserve Best Warrior Competition showcases the combat capabilities and lethality to meet any threat on any battlefield as part of the Total Army force,” said Sgt. 1st Class Ryan Herron, U.S. Army Reserve Command G-3/5/7, one of two noncommissioned officers in charge of this year’s competition.

“While it is a training event, these Warriors will take what they have learned back to their units and share that with their fellow Soldiers. This helps them increase not only their individual readiness, but their unit readiness,” said Herron.

Also recognized at the awards ceremony was the Soldier of the Year runner-up, Spc. Wantae Seong, of Centerville, Virginia, representing the 412th Theater Engineer Command. NCO of the Year runner-up is Staff Sgt. Jonathan Anderson, repesenting the U.S. Army Reserve Readiness Training Command.

Recognition was also given to Warriors achieving the highest Army Physical Fitness Test scores: Sgt. Jordan Lepley, of Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, representing the 200th Military Police Command; Sgt. Luciano Batista, of Paranagua, Brazil, representing the 412th theater Engineer Command; and Spc. Wantae Seong, of Centerville, Va., also representing the 412th TEC.

Highest scores in marksmanship were also awarded. First Place, Sgt. Jordan Lepley; Second place, Cpl. Carlo Deldonno; Third place, Staff Sgt. Jonathan Anderson.
2017 Army Reserve Best Warrior