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The Pennsylvania Army National Guard has awarded WCU junior Antonio D'Alessandro its soldier of the year honor. D'Alessandro bested seven other contenders who, like him, had achieved top standing at preceding levels -- company, battalion, brigade -- to claim the state title.
D'Alessandro joined the National Guard Feb. 13, 2012, and was enlisted at the rank of Private (E2) when he began working toward the soldier of the year competition. He is a cadet in West Chester's Army ROTC program and a political science major with a focus on public policy.
The win brings him closer to achieving his dream career as an infantry officer in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard.
"This means a lot to me personally as I worked and studied very hard to achieve this honor," he said. "I attribute my success in large part to the leadership and mentoring, physical and mental, of West Chester's ROTC program and my Army National Guard Unit, Bravo Company 1/111th Infantry Regiment."
A test of mental and physical fitness, the state's Warrior Challenge was held over the course of three days and included written tests, weapons tasks, soldiering skills including first aid, day and night land navigation, and a 4.5-mile march in combat gear including a 40-pound pack.
This is not D'Alessandro's first accolade. In 2012, as a cadet in the Army ROTC Freedom Battalion and a first-year WCU student, he earned the National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution Award for demonstrating a high degree of merit with respect to leadership qualities, soldier bearing and military excellence.
He will be formally recognized at an awards ceremony on May 31 at a state dinner for all PA National Guard senior leadership.