Sgt. Steven Rovelstad, who is from Maui, is competing to be the Army's soldier of the year.
Fighting for the top
Two warriors with isle ties are competing to be recognized as the Army's soldier of the year
The goal of Maui-born Sgt. Steven Rovelstad, already chosen as the best warrior in the Army's Medical Command, is to fly helicopters.
For the past week, Rovelstad, a 2003 King Kekaulike High School graduate, has been pitting his Army knowledge covering 150 military skills against 12 other soldiers representing the ranks of private through specialist vying for the coveted title of Army soldier of the year.
"It's definitely intimidating," said Rovelstad, 21, who joined the Army right after he graduated from the Maui high school, "knowing all the competitors are the best the Army has to offer."
Also, competing in the category covering the Army ranks corporal through sergeant first class is Staff Sgt. Brian Yoder, an intelligence specialist with Headquarters and Headquarters Battery of the 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command at Fort Shafter. Yoder is the top noncommissioned officer in the U.S. Army Pacific Command.
Rovelstad, a dental technician at Schofield Barracks medical clinic, said his brother, Seth, who was an air traffic controller in the Army, influenced his decision to join the Army.
"I saw it as a way to get ahead," said Rovelstad, "and get started with a good set of skills."
During the past week of competition the two Hawaii soldiers -- among 26 of the best soldiers in the Army's 13 major commands -- were tested on their combat skills and knowledge at Fort Lee in Virginia.
The soldier of the year and the NCO of the year will be announced tomorrow at the Association of United States Army Association luncheon.
Yoder, 26, said the yearlong competition is centered around 150 soldiering skills that all soldiers are required to know.
"This is what we are taught," said Yoder, who has been in the Army for more than four years. "It is practiced by every soldier."
These include the physical fitness test, a two-mile run, qualification on the M-4 carbine and other weapons and map and compass orientation course.
The soldiers also will face selection boards whose members include Sergeant Major of the Army Kenneth O. Preston. Both the soldier and NCO selection boards will each be made up of six senior command sergeants major from throughout the Army. The boards will evaluate each soldier's appearance, military bearing and knowledge in a number of key areas.
Yoder said there is a medical section where the participants have to demonstrate their lifesaving skills in bandaging wounds or setting a broken limb.
Rovelstad said contestants are given a written examination on general military topics and also are asked to write an essay.
"The only way to prepare for that is to pay attention on everything that is going on" since the soldiers are not given the topics ahead of time, said Rovelstad.
"It is a little nerve-wracking," he added, "but I feel prepared."
Yoder, of Newport, Pa., is married and has two children. His current enlistment will end in 2010 and he will decide by then whether he wants to remain in uniform. "I have really enjoyed my time in the Army."
Yoder said that when he enlisted he chose the Army over the Navy because he believed that, in the field of military intelligence, "it had the training I wanted and it has a bigger military intelligence branch."
His ultimate goal is to pursue a doctorate in education and teach at the college level.
Rovelstad also hopes to complete his college degree while still in the Army. He is the son of Hal and Linda Rovelstad of Makawao.