Best Warrior
Sgt. Brenden Shannon, Spc. Jesse Jacklyn and Staff Sgt. Cesar Ruiz were honored Friday at the Benning Conference Center for earning top honors at the Soldier, NCO and drill sergeant of the year competitions.

FORT BENNING, Ga. - Three names stood out from among the rest during the 2012 Best Warrior Competition -- Staff Sgt. Cesar Ruiz, Sgt. Brenden Shannon and Spc. Jesse Jacklyn. They were dubbed the Maneuver Center of Excellence Drill Sergeant of the Year, NCO of the Year and Soldier of the Year, respectively, at Friday's award ceremony.

"They represented your brigades and your schools magnificently," Command Sgt. Maj. Chris Hardy, post command sergeant major, told the audience of supporters who gathered at the Benning Conference Center to hear the winners announced. The competitors' standing was not revealed until the awards ceremony, when the top Soldier and a runner-up in each of the three categories were identified.

Starting May 14 and wrapping up Thursday, the competition included a series of tasks, both mental and physical, for "the whole Soldier," said Command Sgt. Maj. Steve Murphy, MCoE operations sergeant major, who oversaw the event.

Among other tasks, Soldiers completed day and night land navigation, urban orienteering, combatives, rifle qualification, casualty reporting, communications, an essay and written exam and the physical fitness test.

"It went great," Murphy said. "I think every Soldier got something out of it. It's training, and it pushes the Soldier to compete against his fellow peers and see where he stands and what he needs to improve himself on to be the complete Soldier."

Jacklyn, E Company, 1st Battalion (Airborne), 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment, said he was honored to wbe named MCoE Soldier of the Year.

"I knew it was close," he said of the competition. "I wasn't 100 percent confident. I had good times and bad times as far as performance. I'd almost say the toughest part was not knowing exactly where you stood throughout the whole competition. You had to keep pushing yourself to try to do your best. But I'm very excited. I'm just glad I represented my unit well."

Jacklyn said nothing he'd done in the Army to this point measured up to the level of this competition.

"It was definitely challenging," he said, "but it was a good experience as far as development. I learned a lot, and I also learned there's a lot I need to learn."

Shannon, A Company, 2nd Battalion, 19th Infantry Regiment, said he, too, was anxious about his standing in the competition.

"Then to finally hear my name called, it was such a relief," said the 2012 MCoE NCO of the Year. "The competition was really grueling. It's only four days, but in four days, a lot happens. It's a competition, but it's probably some of the best training that you get all year. Especially being a drill sergeant, I don't get to train myself a lot, so coming out here refreshes skills I haven't trained on in a long time."

There were seven competitors in the NCO category, four for Soldier of the Year, and three in the drill sergeant category.

"The competition was intense," said Ruiz, D Company, 2nd Battalion, 47th Infantry Regiment. "There was a lot of mystery involved … which was really good because you never know what's next."

Ruiz said the hardest event was the mystery event, which turned out to be drill and ceremony. Overall, he said, the competition reflected what drill sergeants should know.

"It's like it says in our drill sergeant's creed," he said. "Summarizing, 'I will not expect anybody else to do what I wouldn't do.' So these are all tasks that essentially we teach our new Soldiers."
Ruiz said he couldn't have done it without his command and fellow cadre behind him.

"I can't express enough appreciation for my unit supporting me throughout this entire thing," he said, "especially my co-workers who are still training Soldiers while I've been competing and practicing."

Local and regional sponsors also supported the Soldiers with a range of gifts for the three winners, including a flat-screen TV, a watch, T-shirts, a framed print, Visa gift cards and a Congressional medal.

Shannon and Jacklyn will go on to the Training and Doctrine Command NCO of the Year and Soldier of the Year competition July 29 through Aug. 3. The Drill Sergeant of the Year board, also at the TRADOC level, will be held June 23-30.

Page last updated Wed May 23rd, 2012 at 14:28