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Lisle native is Ill. National Guard brigade’s Soldier of the Year

LISLE – Tending to combat wounds and calling for a medical evacuation helicopter were just two of the many skills one Lisle native had to apply during a recent competition. 

Illinois National Guard Spc. Zachary Lange, combat medic for the 708th Medical Company of North Riverside, was named Soldier of the Year at the 108th Sustainment Brigade’s 2013 Best Warrior Competition, held Aug. 10 to 11 at Camp Lincoln in Springfield. 

“Two-and-a-half years ago when I first joined [the National Guard], I didn’t see myself competing in something like this,” Lange said. “It’s exciting and means a lot to me to be able to be a part of this. I’m very excited and very proud.” 

Lange displayed superior military knowledge, soldier skills and readiness against two other soldiers in order to earn the Soldier of the Year title.

During the first day of the competition, Lange said he had to complete a variety of tasks, which included creating grid coordinates on a map, treating mock wounds and calling for a medical evacuation helicopter and effectively moving a team toward direct fire while avoiding casualties. He then had to take a written test. 

During the second day of the competition, Lange said a board asked a series of questions on a variety of topics, including military history and current news. He said this was the most challenging aspect of the competition. 

“A lot of the physical stuff I can train and prepare for,” Lange said. “But as far as the questions from the board, you have to be able to answer any question they throw at you.”

Participants’ scores were then tallied, Lange said, and he was announced the Soldier of the Year. 

Lange initially was selected for the competition by competing against other soldiers in his company. He then competed at the battalion level to make it to the brigade level.

In September, he will compete at the state level against other soldiers from four other Illinois National Guard commands. At this level, Lange said he will have to complete a 10-mile ruck march and a day-and-night land navigation and also answer questions in front of a board. 

“It will be challenging for sure, but it’s a challenge that I’m willing to go up against,” Lange said of the state competition. “The pressure is definitely there, but I think it will be fun.” 

If Lange wins at the state level, he will represent Illinois in a regional competition against neighboring states. 

Lange said he joined the National Guard and became a combat medic because of his desire to help people and interest in the medical field. His father is a nurse, and he has been interested in the military since he was a child, he said.  

“I’ve never been overseas, but too many go and too many don’t come back,” Lange said. “So, being a medic, I want to try to bring that number down.”

Lange lives in Bloomington-Normal, where he takes classes at Heartland Community College. Once he completes his general education courses, he plans to transfer to Illinois State University to complete a degree in nursing.

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