FORT SHAFTER, Hawaii - Each Soldier started the Warrior Challenge even with zero points. After a week of combatives, a physical fitness test, land navigation and numerous other events, two Soldiers stood ahead of the rest.

Staff Sgt. Neftali Bonilla, United States Army, Alaska, and Spc. Matthew Grothe, 8th Theater Sustainment Command, were named NCO and Soldier of the Year respectively during the 234th Army birthday celebration at the Hilton Hawaiian Village June 13.

Bonilla and Grothe beat out nine other competitors from throughout the Pacific during this year's United States Army, Pacific Warrior Challenge Competition held June 8-12. Soldiers traveled from Japan and Alaska to join Soldiers stationed in Hawaii to round out this competition.

"It's a great honor and privilege to be among the best," Bonilla said. "For me, working hard, being dedicated and putting great effort into what you can do have helped me to achieve this great accomplishment."

Lt. Gen. Benjamin R. Mixon, commanding general, USARPAC, and Command Sgt. Maj. Joseph Zettlemoyer, command sergeant major, USARPAC, presented Army Commendation Medals to each of the winners during the ceremony.

Along with the medals, Bonilla and Grothe received approximately $2,000 and other gifts from local Hawaiian sponsors.

"The money and gifts were not expected," Grothe said. "It was really nice that these local sponsors went out of the way to give us these gifts."

The Warrior Challenge is a USARPAC competition designed to find the best NCO and Soldier in the Pacific. Over the five-day competition, Soldiers were tested on their Army knowledge, physical and mental stamina. At the end of the competition, the points were tallied and the highest NCO and Soldier were chosen as NCO and Soldier of the Year.

Bonilla beat out a tough charge from Sgt. Raymundo De Los Santos, 94th Army Air Missile Defense Command, and Sgt. 1st Class Tommy Padilla, 196th Infantry Brigade. Other NCO competitors were Sgt. Darius Merritt, U.S. Army, Japan, Sgt. Elizabeth Engler, 8th Theater Sustainment Command, and Sgt. Daniel Mercado, 25th Infantry Division.

Grothe slowly distanced himself from the competition throughout the week. His closest competitors were Spc. Jill Johnson, United States Army, Alaska and Spc. Michael Fisher, 25th Infantry Division. Other Soldier of the Year competitors were Spc. Timothy Nelson, USARJ, and Spc. Jason Soberon, 94th AAMDC.

"All these Soldiers are winners," Zettlemoyer said. "They won every competition from the company through the battalion and the brigade; all the way to the top. They are truly the Soldiers of the Year."

In order to win the competition, the Soldiers had to complete a number of grueling physical and mental events. The competition started with the Command Sergeant Major Board, essay and test. After that, the Soldiers moved out to the range to qualify with the M-4 Carbine.

Throughout the rest of the week, Soldiers conducted pre-combat inspections, a media interview, the Army physical fitness test, day land navigation and night urban orienteering, combatives and Warrior Task Testing.

The Warrior Task Testing combined a number of Soldier skills, including first aid, Army Combatives, and familiarization with nuclear biological and chemical weapons procedures.

Bonilla and Grothe will represent USARPAC in the Department of Army competition held in September at Fort Lee, Va. The Warrior Challenge was designed to emulate the DA competition to ensure USARPAC Soldiers were physically and mentally prepared, according to Zettlemoyer.

"I think that going to a board with the Sergeant Major of the Army there is going to be the hardest part for me during the DA competition," Grothe said. "But I think I'll be fine and I'm excited about representing USARPAC in the competition."

For more information and to see how each competitor did during each event, visit the Warrior Challenge Website at www.usarpac.army.mil/warriorchallenge09.

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Page last updated Mon June 15th, 2009 at 21:49