FORT SILL, Okla. (June 22, 2017) — After three days of grueling competition, Staff Sgt. Maria Sandoval, B Battery, 3rd Battalion, 6th Air Defense Artillery, was announced as the Fort Sill 2017 Advanced Individual Training Platoon Sergeant of the Year (PSoY) during a ceremony June 16, at Kerwin Auditorium.
“I am overwhelmed, I’m surprised and excited,” said Sandoval, who is from Colombia.
Now Sandoval, with assistance from her sponsor, Sgt. 1st Class Adam Tingler, will prepare for the Training and Doctrine Command AIT PSoY competition at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., in September.
AIT Platoon Sgts. (Staff Sgt.) Dustin Grissom, Ordnance Training Detachment, and (Staff Sgt.) William Miller, C Battery, 1st Battalion, 78th Field Artillery, also competed. The final score was close, with only 20 points separating Sandoval from the unannounced runner-up, said outgoing AIT PSoY Sgt. 1st Class Timothy Wood, B/3-6th ADA.
The competition included the Army Physical Fitness Test, combatives, Physical Readiness Training instruction, day and night land navigation, drill and ceremonies instruction, weapons familiarization, M16 rifle qualification, a written exam and an essay, and an appearance before a board of command sergeants majors.
Miller said he gained much from the competition.
“It’s eye-opening because it makes an AIT platoon sergeant really aware of any knowledge that he or she had let fall to the wayside that should have been maintained,” Miller said. He also recommended the competition to his peers because they could gain a lot just by participating.
In his invocation, Chaplain (Maj.) Eric Dean, 30th ADA Brigade ethics instructor said: “Oh mighty, merciful God … we thank you for each of these AIT platoon sergeants — proven professionals who embody and uphold the highest standards, who are tasked to instruct the next generation of fires Soldiers ensuring that an excellent foundation has been laid on which others can build.”
Guest speaker 30th ADA Brigade Command Sgt. Maj. John Young, said being an AIT platoon sergeant is similar to raising teenagers.
“They have the daily challenge on ensuring that they (AIT Soldiers) are up in the morning, eating a healthy breakfast, getting them off to school, and once they get back home keeping their minds focused on chores and homework,” Young said. “You also have to keep them physically fit, sit them down and talk to every single one of them in the face month-to-month to resolve any issue.”
That is just a fraction of what each AIT platoon sergeant does on a daily basis with upward of 60 Soldiers, young added.
Wood reflected back on his year as PSoY and described it as awesome, and as a nice recognition for the hard work he put in to it.
“Number one, it made me feel like I had accomplished something,” he said. “I’ve also been selected for promotion to master sergeant, so I believe winning the competition helped me with that.