FORT SHAFTER, Hawaii - They advise more than a thousand soldiers at any given time, directly impacting each person's family, future, and physical and mental health.

Army career counselors are highly trained soldiers and products of an arduous qualification process. They counsel and mentor others on Army benefits, programs, and opportunities, and are the subject matter experts on all facets of uniformed life to include reenlistment, transfer of education benefits, and reclassification.

It's a job that demands the best, and that's why the United States Army Pacific Command and the Department of the Army hold annual training and Career Counselor of the Year competitions.

"It breeds excellence," said Master Sgt. John Stiles, the competition's coordinator and the senior retention operations noncommissioned officer for USARPAC. "It recognizes and rewards the best and most qualified within our career field."

This year, Sgt. 1st Class James Klink took that title as the winner of USARPAC's Career Counselor of the Year competition held Dec. 4-6, here.

As career counselor for the 45th Sustainment Brigade, 8th Theater Sustainment Command, Klink demonstrated his knowledge of his job, soldiering, and the Army while completing the Army Physical Fitness Test, a written exam, warrior task events, and a formal board evaluation.

A Soldier from each major command under USARPAC competed against Klink; Staff Sgt. Armando Delgado, United States Army Alaska; Sgt. 1st Class Adam Bartlett, 25th Infantry Division; and Staff Sgt. Armando Guevara, 8th Army (Korea).

"Like the old analogy says, 'The cream will rise to the top,'" said Stiles. "I believe the best always continues to strive to bigger and better. [Klink] has undoubtedly proven himself and I think has a great shot of winning at the [Department of the Army] level."

The strenuous competition was also combined with the career counselors' annual training. Counselors from across the Pacific trained on the Army's new and proposed retention policies, and guest subject matter experts spoke to the group.

The week's events culminated with an awards dinner at the Hale Koa hotel.

Klink will represent USARPAC in Washington D.C., Jan. 6-9, for the Secretary of the Army's Career Counselor of the Year Board, where he will compete against peers from each major Army command.