In what may be the first time the Army has conducted any kind of Soldier's competition by video teleconference, the Army Contracting Command has set a new precedence.

According to Master Sgt. Michael C. Bonds, ACC G-3 operations noncommissioned officer, this year's NCO of the Year competition, held May 6-10, was conducted virtually in light of current budget constraints.

"This year was a unique experience as far as planning the event on the same line as a traditional competition," he said. "Of course, we had those who wanted the competition here at Redstone Arsenal, Ala., but understanding the funding situation we were under, they eventually jumped on board and provided top-quality NCOs to compete."

Rising to the top of that heap was Staff Sgt. Miguel Martinez of the Mission and Installation Contracting Command Field Directorate Office-Fort Knox, Ky.

He beat out 11 other acquisition, logistics and technology contracting NCOs who hailed from as far away as Italy, Germany, Korea, Hawaii and various stateside installations to become this year's title-bearer.

A native of Inglewood, Calif., Martinez had only reclassified into the 51C career field in June 2012.

Previously, he served as a dental assistant, then NCO--in-charge of a dental clinic in Germany.

He now moves on to represent ACC in the Army Materiel Command's Best Warrior Competition at Rock Island, Ill., Aug. 19-22.

This year, competitors were required to complete the physical fitness test and 12-mile road march at their home stations and to forward the results to the graders at ACC headquarters. The formal boards and exams were evaluated through VTC.

First-time competitor and native of Fayetteville, N.C., Staff Sgt. Lucinda S. Archer of the 414th Contracting Support Brigade, Vicenza, Italy, said the "NCO of the Year competition was one of the most challenging military events" she had ever encountered in the 14 years she's been in the Army.

"The toughest part of the competition by far was the road march," she said. "I had many from my unit out there supporting me. My battle buddy even got hurt but after all that was said and done; it showed me how to persevere and just keep going."

"The experience to me was very real and I was nervous every time I had to get in front of the camera," she said. "For those who want to participate in next year's event, my advice would be to please prepare yourself, physically train up for the road march and, as with any military board, make sure your uniform is squared away."

Staff Sgt. Gregory M. Graham, a native of Somerset, N.J., had only recently reported for duty with the 411st CSB, Osan Air Base, Korea, when he "jumped into the competition."

"Fortunately, I had just gotten done with the NCO of the Quarter boards with my previous unit, so I had already retained quite a bit of information," he said. "Competing via VTC, however, was extremely different, especially when the system was delayed or went down. I personally like to see the board members' reactions to better assess my situation and how I am doing. This made it a lot tougher."

Nonetheless, Graham encourages anyone to compete.

"I challenge anyone to compete at these boards," he said. "They are a great way to put yourself out there and meet with senior leadership that you may not get to meet until later on. I did it within two weeks of becoming a contracting NCO, no one in the field knew me before. They will know me now, though."

The NCOY runner-up was Staff Sgt. Booker L. Jordan Jr., of the 409th CSB, Kaiserslautern, Germany; and third was Staff Sgt. Billy J. Carrillo of MICC-Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.