Sergeant First Class John Paul Salazar, a 1994 graduate of Payson High School and 2002 graduate of Northern Arizona University, was named NCO of the year at an awards ceremony held at the Phoenix Sheraton Airport Hotel on Oct. 29, 2005.
Five Soldiers (E4 and below) and six NCOs (E5 thru E7) represented their commands, competing for the top honor of being named the Arizona Army National Guard Soldier or NCO of the Year. Following a Thursday evening orientation at the 215th Regional Training Center, the competition phase began Friday morning, Oct. 28 with an Army Physical Fitness test (APET) that included sit-ups, push-ups and a two-mile run.
After returning to Papago Park Military Reservation and changing into field uniforms and equipment, the rest of the day consisted of testing on individual warrior tasks to include a timed land navigation course, testing on five different common soldier's tasks and a written exam of 50 questions that covered a variety of general soldier's information.
Saturday morning started early at the rifle range, where marksmanship skills were tested.
The final stage of this competition was an oral board before a panel of command sergeants major. The two candidates, first sergeants of the year, also had an oral interview board to determine the winner in that category.
The soldiers, NCOs and 1SGs who competed were nominated by their major commands as their "most outstanding" soldiers of the fiscal year 2005. They represent the best and brightest of the Arizona Army National Guard. The competition this year was extremely close in each category, but after all the points were tallied, SFC John Paul Salazar, Detachment 1, 1404th Transportation Company, Camp Navajo Command, was named NCO of the year.
The NCO and Soldier of the year winners will go on to represent the Arizona Army National Guard at the Fifth Army Southwest Regional NCO and Soldier competition to be held in Santa Fe, N.M. in April 2006.
SFC Salazar was deployed to Iraq from April 2003 to April 2004 and recently was deployed to Louisiana for five weeks to aid in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
SFC Salazar is employed by Speedie and Associates, an environmental firm, as staff geologist and project manager in Flagstaff, where he has made his home.
SFC Salazar is a member of the Payson American Legion Post #69, and is the son of Bob and Sharon Salazar of Payson.