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Warriors battle for top Army honors

The fifth annual Department of the Army NCO/Soldier of the Year Competition brings together warriors from the ranks of private to sergeant first class who have proven themselves through company, battalion, division and major command levels.

By Jorge Gomez
FORT LEE, Va. (Army News Service, Sept. 29, 2006) - Noncommissioned officers and Soldiers representing the Army's 10 major commands will compete for the coveted "Best Warrior" title Oct. 2-6 at Fort Lee.

The fifth annual Department of the Army NCO/Soldier of the Year Competition brings together warriors from the ranks of private to sergeant first class who have proven themselves through company, battalion, division and major command levels.

Competitors will tackle rigorous tests that challenge their warrior knowledge, skills and abilities. Challenges include the Army Physical Fitness Test, a written examination and essay on general military topics, M-4 rifle weapons qualification, day and night urban orientation courses, and various warrior tasks.

The Soldiers and NCOs will also face a selection board chaired by Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth O. Preston. Board members will comprise six command sergeants major from throughout the Army. They will evaluate each warrior's appearance, military bearing and knowledge in key military areas.

"This is a great way for our Soldiers to showcase their technical and tactical skills," Preston said. "We are an Army at war supporting a nation at war, and our Soldiers must be flexible and adaptive."

The experience of the competitors spans from NCOs like Sgt. 1st Class Jason Alexander, U.S. Army Forces Command, with 10 years in the Army and numerous assignments and deployments to recently promoted Sgt. Bryan Raya, U.S. Army Pacific Command, with less than two years in service as a band member.

"The 'Best Warrior' competition puts all the Soldiers on an even playing field," Preston said. "They must be experts in the 40 warrior tasks and 11 battle drills and must be able to make split-second decisions. The competition will not only test their technical and tactical skills, but will test their problem solving skills, as well."

Raya, a trombone player with the 25th Infantry Division, deployed with the unit's headquarters element to Operation Iraqi Freedom last month but was permitted to return to the United States to represent USARPAC for the competition.

"I'm trying not to get overwhelmed with all the information I've been studying," Raya said.

It has been difficult to study with all the events leading to the deployment and conducting physical training while downrange, he said.

"The air is dustier, you need to have a battle buddy with you, and you have to account for your weapon, so I have had to run on treadmills," Raya said. "But in the last few days since I got here I've been running on track and getting acclimatized to the cooler air."

While in Kuwait, Raya said he was pleased to get some hands-on training in IEDs, convoy operations and close-quarters marksmanship.

"I've had some real good training the last couple of weeks that I think has prepared me for this," Raya said.

The band member said he wants to win the competition, but the most important thing for him is to do his best and "make my command proud. I'm doing this for my own personal excellence," he said.

Preston said he is looking forward to watching the Soldiers compete and congratulating them for making it to this far.

"It takes a lot of hard work, preparation and sacrifice to get to this level," Preston said. "All of the Soldiers are winners, no matter who comes out on top at the end of the week."

The winners will be announced Oct. 9 at the SMA luncheon held during the Association of the U.S. Army annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

The Fort Lee Public Affairs Office will launch a Web site for the competition Oct. 2. The site, Best Warrior, will be updated daily with photos and information.

Competitors are:

U.S. Army Forces Command

...� Sgt. 1st Class Jason H. Alexander, HHC, 3rd Army Area Support Group, Camp Arifijan, Kuwait

...� Sgt. Brian D. Waddy, HHB, 32nd Army Air and Missile Defense Command, Fort Bliss, Texas

Training and Army Doctrine Command

...� Staff Sgt. Leon Jay Presley, HHC, 14th Military Police Brigade, Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.

...� Spc. April N. Johnigan, Co. A, Victory Support Battalion, Victory Brigade, Fort Jackson, S.C.

U.S. Army, Europe

...� Sgt. Delroy G. Barnett, Co. E, 123 Main Support Battalion, Dexheim, Germany

...� Spc. John Emmett, HHC, 21st Theater Support Command, Kaiserslautern, Germany

Army Materiel Command

...� Sgt. Joseph M. Krafft, 389th Army Band, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md.

...� Pfc. Dexter R. Woods, HHD, Soldier Systems Center, Natick, Mass.

Eighth U.S. Army

...� Sgt. Dustin W. Jorrick, HHD, 52nd Medical Battalion, Seoul, Korea

...� Spc. Corey E. Luffler, HHD, Soldier Systems Center, Natick, Mass.

Army Medical Command

...� Sgt. Mario O. Medina, Co. A, Madigan Army Medical Center, Fort Lewis, Wash.

...� Sgt. Anthony M. Lark, U.S. Army Health Clinic, Vilseck, Germany

U.S. Army, Pacific

...� Staff Sgt. Travis Stoufer, 247th Military Police Detachment, Torii Station, Okinawa, Japan

...� Spc. Bryan Raya, 25th Infantry Division Band, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii

Space and Missile Defense Command

...� Staff Sgt. Stacy-Lyn D. De La Hoz, Co. B, 53rd Signal Battalion, Fort Meade, Md.

...� Sgt. Patrick J. Mann, Co. C, 53rd Signal Battalion, 1st Space Brigade, Space and Missile Defense Command, Landsthul, Germany

U.S. Army Special Operations Command

...� Staff Sgt. Douglas W. Norman, HHC, 1st NB, 75th Ranger Regiment, Hunter Army Airfield, Savannah, Ga.

...� Spc. Edward A. Hull, Co. B, 2nd Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne), U.S. Army Special Operations Command, Fort Campbell, Ky.

Military District of Washington-National Capital Region

...� Staff Sgt. Jeremy J. Semsel, 1st Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment, U.S. Military Academy, West Point, N.Y.

...� Spc. Xeriqua Garfinkel, 241st Military Police Detachment, Fort Meade, Md.

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