by Sgt. 1st Class Kevin Quill
43rd Sustainment Brigade, Public Affairs Office
Soldiers from the 43rd Sustainment Brigade were named Fort Carson’s Noncommissioned Officer and Soldier of the Year in a ceremony at McMahon Auditorium June 18.
Staff Sgt. Cedrick D. Stewart, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 43rd Special Troops Battalion, 43rd SB, captured NCO of the Year and Spc. Cliff Klaye, 230th Finance Company, 43rd STB, took home Soldier of the Year honors.
Stewart, a chemical operation specialist, is the 43rd STB’s schools NCO as well as platoon sergeant for HHC’s 5th Platoon. He joined the Army in 2004.
The process of winning NCO of the Year was a long one, requiring him to win company, battalion, brigade, and finally NCO of the Quarter before being eligible to compete for NCO of the Year. The NCO of the Year board pitted Stewart against NCOs from units throughout Fort Carson, and he said that it was the toughest one he faced.
“The questions were more situational,” he said. “They wanted you to get more in-depth, they didn’t want to hear the book answer. They wanted you to explain things in your own words. They wanted to see if I really knew what I was talking about.”
Stewart sees being NCO of the Year as a positive not only for himself but his Soldiers as well.
“This is what I call leading from the front. I want to set the example for my Soldiers that’s going to make them want to go to boards, want to excel and follow in my footsteps. If I just affect one Soldier in my platoon this way then I’ve done great,” he said.
Stewart has a message to pass along to other NCOs, one that he borrowed from his battalion commander, Col. LeRoy Tunnage.
“Dare to be great,” Stewart said. “Dare to make a difference. Because right now, for my platoon, the bar is raised, and I would like any Soldier or NCO to step up to that bar and try to get this honor ,because it’s out there for anyone to get.”
Klaye is a financial management specialist working as a dispersing clerk for the 230th Finance Company. He joined the Army in 2007 and has come a long way to be named Fort Carson’s Soldier of the Year, literally. He’s from Accra, capital of the African country of Ghana.
“My wife has three of her cousins in the U.S. Army,” he said. “They spoke to me and told me it’s solid gold. I tried it and it worked. I really like it.”
The Soldier of the Year honor snuck up on Klaye.
“I started off just going to monthly boards to prepare myself for the promotion board,” he said. “I was getting better so I said, ‘Well let me just keep going.'”
The Soldier of the Year Board process is something Klaye recommends to all Soldiers.
“It’s something good for them to do, especially young Soldiers who are trying this as a career. It opens doors for you to meet people and interact with senior people in the service. If you have a chance, do it. If you don’t do it, you don’t know your potential,” he said.
43rd STB Command Sgt. Maj. Wendy Robinson said she is proud of both Stewart and Klaye and thinks the honors they received are a telling reflection of the 43rd.
“It says we have great leaders at every level,” she said. “We have NCOs and officers who are constantly challenging our NCOs and Soldiers at every level, who are doing a great job at training them and are constantly getting them ready for not just these boards but also deployment.”
She said she believes that the 43rd winning the NCO and Soldier of the Year honors sends a message to all support Soldiers on Fort Carson.
“Sustainment Soldiers, support Soldiers – they’re up there with the same caliber as the warfighters,” she said. “A lot of the questions on the board dealt with situational things that would occur during deployment. It lets our Soldiers know in the support MOSs (military occupational specialties) that just because you’re not combat arms, you can still be the best. With the proper training and encouragement you can succeed at anything you do.”
Both Stewart and Klaye will travel to Fort Hood, Texas, to compete in the III Corps NCO and Soldier of the Year boards July 6-10.