FORT LEE, Va. (Army News Service, Nov 22, 2013) -- The Army's 2013 Best Warrior Competition challenged the best of the best in a variety of areas that showcased the expertise, precision and strength of today's elite warfighters.

The Soldiers, who represent 12 Army commands, are a great reflection on the leadership and other service members at those commands, said Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III.

The warriors put in hundreds of hours of work to make it this far, he said. They couldn't have made it to this premier competition, he said, without intense dedication, and the support of their command and families.

"When you see the caliber of the Soldiers and non-commissioned officers that represent those organizations, I think you really have to take a step back and say 'wow, we have some great leaders,'" said Chandler.

While the competition only has two official winners: Soldier of the Year, and Non-Commissioned Officer of the Year, Chandler said each Soldier can be proud for rising to this level. Everyone who made it this far is a winner, he said.

Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. John F. Campbell and Chandler presented the awards at a reception Nov. 22, at the conclusion of the event.

Sgt. 1st Class Jason Manella of Fremont, Calif., with the Army Reserve Command, won Non-Commissioned Officer of the Year. Spc. Adam Christensen of Las Vegas, Nev., with U.S. Army Pacific Command, was named Soldier of the Year.

The Best Warrior Competition was intense, the competitors said, but everyone helped each other when possible and encouraged their fellow brothers to succeed. The Soldiers went into the three days of competition not knowing exactly what to expect.

"We all have risen to the challenge and accomplished all the tasks put in front of us," said Staff Sgt. Thomas Robinett, a medic with the Special Forces. "I'm really proud to have the opportunity to do this and represent my unit."

The first day of competition included a variety of intense simulated scenarios: responding to an attack involving chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear material; safely moving a fellow Soldier who lost a limb in a warzone bomb attack; and responding to an ambush by gun-toting assailants. Soldiers also fired a variety of weapons, and changed a tire on a Humvee.

Starting with a pre-dawn physical fitness test, the Soldiers were on the go for the entire first day of competition, hiking for miles through the woods and fields with their gear to get to each challenge.

"Nobody expected this kind of intensity," said Staff Sgt. De Gosh Reed, a New Jersey native who is representing U.S. Army Pacific.

The second day of events tested Soldiers' leadership and problem solving skills. The competitors arrived in waves at an airfield on a chilly morning to inspect Soldiers in formation, lead physical readiness training, and demonstrate expertise in handling and inspecting weapons.

As part of the mystery events, Soldiers were then tasked with directing a team to move personnel and heavy objects from point A to point B, to simulate transporting an injured Soldier, and delivering equipment and supplies under less than ideal situations.

On the last day of competition, Soldiers demonstrated their professionalism and Army knowledge before selection board meetings with senior sergeants major from across the Army. Chandler chaired the meetings.

Throughout the competition, in addition to the evaluators and the Army's highest ranked enlisted adviser, the Soldiers had retired Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth Preston, Chandler's predecessor, watching them complete their tasks.

"As I've seen in years past, the competitors coming through, they really are the epitome of our Soldiers and our non-commissioned officers out there," he said.

"Now that I'm a civilian and on the outside looking in, it makes me very proud that the proud traditions of service that these Soldiers and non-commissioned officers represent are still being carried on," he said.

"It's inspiring for me," said Preston.

While the competition began with 24 competitors, one NCO was unable to compete due to an illness.