Staff Sgt. Sam Schaefers, of Watertown, formerly of Polo and Miller, was named the South Dakota Army National Guard’s Noncommissioned Officer (NCO) of the Year for 2013.
Spc. Dalton DeBoer, of Clear Lake, was named Soldier of the Year. Both soldiers are members of Watertown’s Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 1-147th Field Artillery Battalion.
The NCO and Soldier of the Year titles are the top honors that can be bestowed upon enlisted personnel in the state’s Army National Guard.
DeBoer and Schaefers were the top winners for the state’s Army Guard Best Warrior Competition held in September. DeBoer and Schaefers battled against 33 other competitors in an series of events to include a written exam, essay writing, battle drills, M-16 rifle marksmanship, land navigation, obstacle course, six-mile road march (carrying a 40-pound pack) and a physical fitness test.
“The events embodied the whole soldier concept,” said State Command Sgt. Maj. Susan Shoe, senior NCO for the SDARNG. “They all had to know weapons, warrior tasks, board knowledge and the Warrior Ethos.”
Staff Sgt. Schaefers is the son of Doug and Cheryl Schaefers of Polo, and is a graduate of Miller High School. He became a member of the National Guard in 2000 and serves as the training NCO for the 1-147th Field Artillery Battalion.
Through his later years in school, Schaefers knew he wanted to serve in some way.
“My older sister had joined the Guard, that was what pushed me over the edge,” said Schaefers. “I chose the National Guard over the other services because that is what she did.”
Schaefers, who was selected as the alternate NCO to represent the 1-147th in the competition, reflected on what helped him be successful even though he had no time to train for the competition specifically.
“It is my daily routine that helped me succeed,” he said. “The big thing that helped me is I have a good, general knowledge of (soldier) skills and tasks.”
Schaefers devotes a majority of his off-duty time to his family.
“My kids (Olivia, 9, and Noah, 6) take a lot of my time, and that is awesome,” said Schaefers. “I do a lot of hunting and recreational shooting, but my family definitely comes first.”
Schaefers also commented on the upcoming regional Best Warrior Competition.
“I look forward to doing the best I can no matter how I place,” he said. “I am looking forward to the challenge of a higher level of competition.”
The next challenge ahead for DeBoer and Schaefers will be representing South Dakota in the Region 6 Best Warrior competition to be held May 18-22, 2014. The competition will be hosted by the SDARNG and take place in Rapid City. Competitors from six other states will join DeBoer and Schaefers to compete for the regional title. The winners of that competition will advance to the national Best Warrior Competition.
“It is a testament of their Army values and the Warrior Ethos that they didn’t quit,” Shoe remarked of Schaefers and DeBoer. “They definitely distinguished themselves as the best of the best.”
Shoe also remarked about the spirit of the competition.
“The soldiers who won the individual events had a determination, a winning spirit inside of them,” said Shoe. “Yet there was a great deal of camaraderie, everyone was helping each other, supporting each other through the competition.”
SAM SCHAEFERS has been a member of the National Guard since 2000, and credits knowledge of soldier skills to his success.