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NEWS | March 1, 2024

Indo-Pacific hosts 2024 Best Career Counselor Competition

By Spc. Taylor Gray

FORT SHAFTER, Hawaii – Every year retention leaders from across the Indo-Pacific theater compete in Hawaii to earn the top honor of the U.S. Army Pacific’s Career Counselor of the Year.

This year 16 Noncommissioned Officers faced off Feb. 26-29, at John Rodgers Field and Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam on Oahu. After days of challenging events, one Active Duty NCO and one Reserve Component NCO were recognized as the 2024 Career Counselors of the Year.

Sgt. 1st Class Manuel Briones, a career counselor assigned to the 65th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division on Oahu; and Sgt. 1st Class Steven Caldwell, a reservist career counselor assigned to the 11th Airborne Division in Alaska excelled among their peers to earn the prestigious title.

“[The competition] breeds excellence. It makes you all better. It sets the example for all your subordinates to follow,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Scott Brzak, U.S. Army Pacific’s Senior Enlisted Advisor, to the competitors during the award ceremony. “So as your Soldiers progress through their careers, they’re going to look back and may decide to follow in your footsteps.”

Army Career Counselors recommend and support quality Soldiers for continued service and specific career placement within the Army. As a career counseling collective, they assist Soldiers in reaching their career goals. This specific three-day competition challenged their mental fortitude and their physical strength through basic soldiering skills verifying that they truly are the right NCOs to perform this important mission.

Competitors participated in a series of events including a military occupational specialty (MOS) exam, Army Combat Fitness Test, and a board to test the competitor’s military bearing and occupational expertise. The competitor with the highest score across all events was named the winner.

“One of the main goals I have is to learn as much as I can, with everything I do. The main focus is to pass the knowledge on to better the field and to better the Army in general,” Briones said when describing his thoughts and motivations for the competition.

He said he hopes to sponsor and mentor a fellow Soldier for next year’s competition. Both Briones and Caldwell received the Meritorious Service Medal for their accomplishments.