FORT HUACHUCA, Ariz. -- Eleven Soldiers and non-commissioned officers recently competed for the title, "Best Warrior." U.S. Army Garrison, Fort Huachuca hosted the Soldier and NCO of the Year Competition Feb. 13-16, in order to select the "Best Warrior" to serve as the Installation's NCO and Soldier of the Year.
The competition was open to those on Fort Huachuca ranked E1-E7 (private through sergeant first class). All Army active duty, National Guard and Reserve-component Soldiers were eligible to compete. Most of the Soldiers and NCOs competing were selected for the contest by their chain of command. "They're the top Soldiers from their units," said Master Sgt. Angel Morales, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, USAG. Most of the Soldiers and NCOs who competed won Soldier of the Month, and/or Soldier of the Quarter honors since the last board was held. "They already achieved that distinction and are recognized in their units," added Command Sgt. Maj. Mark Barbary, USAG command sergeant major added. The overall buildup of the competition determines the "Best Warrior."
The Soldiers and NCOs are put to the test on physical, endurance and psychological tasks. They compete in events such as a physical fitness test, written examination and essay, day and night land navigation, 12-mile road march, M16A2 zero and qualification and a mystery event announced just before it takes place. The competition culminates with a board. Soldiers and NCOs report in either their Army Service Uniform or their Class A Uniform. They are then asked three to four questions by six board members, on about 30 different subjects. They are judged not only on their visual appearance but also on their knowledge execution. "The Soldier can perform well on hands-on tasks, but does he or she have the knowledge to execute as a leader?" Barbary asked, adding that the competition is designed to test the Soldiers' minds and skills. The Soldiers have to be able to compete in continuous operations. "We're not looking for an average Soldier who can answer boards and shoot a weapon. We're looking for Soldier warrior leaders who can sustain in the battlefield and train Soldiers. "It takes a unique warrior ... to have that mind set to go the distance with any kind of adverse distractions, and that's what determines the 'Best Warrior,'" explained Barbary. Those taking part in the competition agree. "Only a well-rounded Soldier could win this competition," stated Sgt. Enrique Jimenez, 18th Military Police Detachment. Jimenez has been in the Army for six years; he recently re-enlisted for three more and plans on making it a career. That's one of the reasons he says he took the competition so seriously. "For me it's a huge event, it's an honorable recognition and it would mean a lot to win. ... Winning would set you apart from the rest of the candidates being looked at for an E6, E7 promotion," Jimenez explained. "These days, how the Army is changing, you're going to need stuff like this [board]. That's why we're here," added Jimenez's comrade, Staff Sgt. Dale Kelso, 18th MP Det. Kelso has been on active duty for eight years and says he, too, plans on making a career out of the Army. Besides looking to advance their careers, Kelso and Jimenez also want to win for their unit.
Last year, Sgt. Jeremy Scheetz of the 18th MP Det. was named NCO of the Year, so the two wanted to keep the tradition going. But, Soldiers had to work hard to win. Their passion to be counted among the best led them to intense pre-event preparation. Each felt himself ready when the event arrived. When introducing themselves at the event's ice breaker, meeting, they all stated they were the "Best Warrior" and were competing to win. "It's a great competition, we got some good competitors out here," said Pfc. Derek Nickey, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 11th Signal Brigade.
Nickey said the competition not only looked good for an upcoming private first class but is also good experience to gain early on in his career. Nickey has been in the Army for only 20 months. He, too, plans on staying in for 20 years. "Honestly, everybody's out here for a reason. They're all the best of the best," added Sgt. Jeremy Ramos, Fort Huachuca Select Honor Guard. Barbary and Morales explain competitions such as the "Best Warrior" can help a Soldier's career, especially when looking to get promoted to the E7, E8 and E9 senior NCO ranks. "I would encourage any young Soldier to do this because these will help them out and assist them. ... They [Soldiers] went the extra mile to make sure that they put themselves ahead of their peers," Morales stated. "These are the kind of Soldiers that if I was to receive a phone call to take Soldiers downrange, I'm 100-percent sure that I would take that type of Soldiers downrange with me to sustain and survive on the battlefield," added Barbary. After a grueling competition, Spec. John Diaz, U.S. Medical Command, was named Soldier of the Year. Staff Sgt. Jeremy Morris, 36th Army Band, took NCO of the Year honors. The two will now go on to compete in the All-Army Best Warrior Competition to be held later this year at Fort Lee, Va. Tomorrow evening, Diaz and Morris will be recognized and honored for their accomplishments during the 2011 Installation Award Banquet held at the Thunder Mountain Activity Centre on Fort Huachuca. Each year, the Fort Huachuca community honors individuals such as Diaz and Morris who have gone beyond the call of duty. "It's an honor to take part in this, because it ... shows that leaders on this post care and understand the importance of Soldier recognition, of how to make Soldiers become better leader-warriors to prepare for these future battles," Barbary added.