My Saturday morning was spent going to an Army trivia contest, more commonly known as an NCO of the year board. I was nominated in absentia for NCO of the year from my company, and in a convoluted turn of events and memo-reading, I ended up at this board. It was a sort of bye round for me, as it turned out – I’m going to the brigade NCO of the year competition at the end of March anyway, so the outcome didn’t matter.
These boards really are trivia contests: you’re asked a series of questions about various Army topics, like weapons, physical fitness, drill and ceremony, wear of the uniform, Army history, and more. It’s a contest that plays to my strengths, because I have a knack for memorizing numbers and random facts. I do get nervous before that sort of event – indeed, a pre-board shit is all but mandatory – but right answers trump speaking skills when it really comes down to it.
The list of possible topics is so vast, however, that even a smart guy like me can’t hope to study everything. That’s where analysis and guessing comes in to play – I made educated guesses about likely topics, based on the composition of the unit holding the board, questions that have come up on other boards I’ve attended, and other factors. Those guesses guided my study (which wasn’t extensive, but I got in about an hour a day for the two weeks leading up to it) and I gambled on covering enough of the right things to be able to fudge anything I didn’t quite cover.
As it turned out, my guesses were almost perfect. So good, in fact, that at the end of the board, the sergeant major presiding over the board asked me, “Did you get a copy of these questions before coming to this board?” No, sergeant major, I’m just prescient! Just call me Muad’Dib!