HARRISBURG, Pa., May 6, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Two members of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard recently were named soldier and noncommissioned officer of the year after earning top scores in a three-day "Best Warrior Competition.''
Sgt. 1st Class Dana Graham, 31, of Hummelstown, swept the competition as the noncommissioned officer of the year, and Spc. Erich Friedlein, 26, of Indiana and Company A, 1-110th Infantry, earned the title of soldier of the year.
Enlisted soldiers, representing units from across the state comprised of 13,500 members, competed during the statewide competition in April at Fort Indiantown Gap. The two winners will compete in a multi-state, regional event in June.
Competitions included weapon qualification, physical fitness, land navigation, warrior tasks and drills. The evaluation culminated with an appearance before a board of Pennsylvania National Guard leaders, which measures each soldier's technical proficiency, leadership skills, military knowledge and military bearing.
"All of the competitors were worthy of competing at the highest levels," said Command Sgt. Maj. Nicholas Gilliland, senior state enlisted leader.
Gilliland described Sgt. Graham as "a sharp and extremely professional soldier and Spc. Friedlein as "a professional young man who displays leadership qualities.''
Graham qualified as a sharpshooter, earned a near-perfect score on the physical fitness test, found every land navigation point and scored the highest on the appearance board.
As a 13-year military veteran, including 12 years spent on active duty, Graham has earned a Meritorious Service Medal, four Army Commendation Medals, five Army Achievement Medals, a Combat Action Badge and a Purple Heart that she earned while serving in Iraq.
Graham, who is a qualified drill sergeant, currently uses her experience to develop future leaders as part of the Noncommissioned Officer Academy at Fort Indiantown Gap.
Friedlein qualified as an expert in the rifle competition, earned a perfect score on the physical fitness test, and found all but one point in the land navigation course in less than 55 minutes. Friedlein wrapped up the weekend by scoring the highest among his ranks after his appearance before the leadership board.
In 2008 and 2009, Friedlein put his studies at Indiana University of Pennsylvania on hold to volunteer with Company C, 1-112th Infantry, as part of the 56th Stryker Brigade's deployment to Iraq. In his four-year career, Friedlein has already amassed an impressive array of awards including an Army Commendation Medal, three Army Achievement Medals and a Combat Infantryman Badge.
Media contact: Sgt. Matt Jones, 717-861-8352
SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs