Army's 'Best Warrior' NCO Advises Competitors
August 16, 2007
By Jorge' Gomez
FORT LEE, Va. (Army News Service, Aug. 16, 2007) - Winning the Army's Best Warrior NCO/Soldier of the Year Competition brings recognition and respect.
"That's something that can't be replaced," said Sgt. 1st Class Jason Alexander, 2006 Department of the Army NCO of the Year. Sgt. 1st Class Alexander represented the U.S. Army Forces Command at the 2006 DA competition. He was deployed to Kuwait at the time with 3rd Army, Area Support Kuwait.
Sgt. 1st Class Alexander wants competitors in the 2007 competition to know that even without winning, going through all the training and preparation is worth the effort.
He describes the competition as the "Super Bowl" of all NCO/Soldier of the Year competitions. A year prior to last year's competition, Sgt. 1st Class Alexander went through at least three levels of competition that tested a variety of hands-on skills in addition to boards and Army Physical Fitness Tests. But the DA competition was the biggest scale, he said. "You're getting three or four hours of sleep each night to see how far the competition staff can push you, and if you'll keep pushing back."
For Sgt. 1st Class Alexander, the competition was an endurance test.
"Running through all those days wearing an excessive amount of gear, you're constantly thinking, 'just one more day,'" he said. "You're constantly challenging yourself, and convincing yourself to keep pushing. Even if you got to run, you can do it. Who cares about your feet' Who cares about your back' Just keep going."
What helped him succeed was not stressing too much about it.
"I had prepared extensively for the competition at the 3rd Army level; that was my goal at the forefront, and that was where I hit my stress point," he said. "Once you hit that point you are just sustaining it. You pick up a few things here and there, but there's only so much you can stuff into your head."
After he won the FORSCOM competition in July 2006, Sgt. 1st Class Alexander returned to Kuwait and focused on his regular duties as the NCOIC of his clinic.
It was only a few weeks before the competition in October that he picked up the books and read over a few more things.
"I think being in a relaxed mindset and not stressing out too much helped me do better," he said. "I just went and competed and did my best."
The two areas he regrets falling short of were combatives and crew-served weapons.
He performed fairly well in combatives for not having much experience, but the same could not be said for crew-served weapons.
"You should come to this competition knowing exactly what to do with all the weapons," he said.
During the eight-event competition, warriors don't know what their running scores are. They don't know if they receive a "go" or "no-go" at any event.
That wasn't a problem for Sgt. 1st Class Alexander.
"I didn't think about the point system. I just took each event and reacted to it," he said. "I was actually having so much fun as an E-7, going point to point, just being in the all the gear and training and running around."
Now, Sgt. 1st Class Alexander is having to react to the attention he gets from winning the "Best Warrior" title.
"It's something you're honored with for Soldiers to look up at you that way for the rest of your career," he said. "And you have to be ready to step up to the plate because it will follow you for the remainder of your career."
Sgt. 1st Class Alexander said he tries to stay humble about it, but his friends keep introducing him as the Army's NCO of the Year when he walks around with them.
"It's just me, I'm just a Soldier, I'm just a medic," he said. "Anyone could have won the thing, I was just fortunate enough to be able to keep working my way up."
Alexander returned from his deployment to Kuwait in February 2007. He is now the senior military instructor for the ROTC program at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.
(Jorge' Gomez writes for the Fort Lee "Traveller.")