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Albany Marine Band member selected as Marine of Year;

By Cpl. Nicholas Tremblay | | October 31, 2002

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An Albany Marine Band member was awarded one of the Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany's highest honors Oct. 23.

Sgt. Joe Seykora, Albany Marine Band percussionist, was recently named MCLB Albany Marine of the Year, for Fiscal Year 2002.

The five-year veteran of the Corps was MCLB Albany's noncommissioned officer of the quarter in this year's first quarter.

To determine the Marine of the Year, the NCOs and Marines for each of the four quarters stood before a panel of judges and answered 16 questions on various Marine Corps subjects. The Marines were judged on answering the questions correctly and on their bearing and appearance.

"We don't see what they do on their jobs," said Sgt. Maj. Kenneth Waltz, MCLB Albany base sergeant major and one of the senior Marines who judged the nominees' performance. "We have to rely on how they answer basic Marine questions and just how they overall perform in front of us."

The questions that were asked covered a variety of military subjects, said Seykora. Some of the questions, such as how many stars does a lieutenant general have, were simple. While other questions, such as naming five of the 11 elected officials who rate a salute, were more difficult.

"This time the board was awesome," said Seykora.  "I think the board was well thought-out. The questions were very concise and purposeful."

Although the Owtonna, Minn., native thought the questions for this board were more difficult than the ones he answered for the NCO of the Quarter board, he felt confident he correctly answered 14 of the 16 questions.

Seykora's nervousness, dry throat and sweaty palms reminded him of his first experience before a board. He said, however, that this time his discomfort was not due to the seasoned Marines who formed the panel, but because of the exceptional talent of the other eight competitors.

The judges assessed the way the Marines handled themselves during the board, but they also critiqued other areas to help decide the winner, said Waltz. One of the deciding factors the judges took into account, that Waltz thinks is very important, is their off-duty activities.

Seykora set himself apart from the other Marines with his extra efforts to improve himself, said Waltz. The judges acknowledged that Seykora has been assigned other duties within the band due to his performance as a leader and musician.

Outside his band duties Seykora was the honor graduate for the Sergeants Leadership Course he attended and ranked first in a class of 104 students. Almost directly after returning from the course, the young sergeant attended jump school where he earned his jump wings.

Seykora was at first surprised that he had won the Marine of the Year board, but like a true professional, he merely smiled. He kept his bearing and humbly accepted the award in front of the other Marines. After winning the title he shook the hands of the other nominees and congratulated them on their efforts.

Along with claiming the title of Marine of the Year, Seykora walked away with more professional experience, he said. Having to compete against other Marines of high caliber and undergoing the scrutiny of senior staff NCOs helps build character.

"It is a very positive experience, but a lot of hard work," said Seykora.
"It takes courage and discipline to go in there, not knowing if you will actually receive an award like this."

But competing for an award and gaining the personal experience is only half the picture, said Seykora. Sharing the experience with other Marines in his work section and encouraging them to compete in these boards is something he feels he needs to do.

Like the other Marines and NCOs of the Quarter Board winners, Seykora took this competition very seriously. He found it challenging, finding time to prepare his uniform and study for the board while juggling the responsibilities of the three billets he currently holds in the band: budget and supply chief, percussion section leader and platoon guide.

While Seykora was competing in the Marine of the Year board he remembered he represented himself and his fellow Marines in the Albany Marine Band, he said. He did his best to make his unit proud and prove to the judges and other competitors he was worthy of being MCLB Albany Marine of the Year.

Now that Seykora has earned the prestigious title he will continue to set the example for junior Marines in the band and constantly improve himself to become the best Marine he can, he said.

"The worst thing I can do now is become arrogant," said Seykora. "I can take pride in being the Marine of the Year, but I still need to be humble."

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