FORT LEE, Va. (April 10, 2014) -- Ten Soldiers from Combined Arms Support Command, or CASCOM, units near and far gathered here Monday for the week-long competitive throw-down known as Ultimate Warrior, an annual combined Soldier skills event.

It includes separate competitions for Soldier of the Year, Non-commissioned Officer of the Year, Instructor of the Year, Advanced Individual Training Platoon Sergeant of the Year and Retention NCO of the year. Soldiers from the ordnance, quartermaster and transportation schools here, as well as the Soldier Support Institute at Fort Jackson, S.C., were on hand for the event.

Ultimate Warrior began with an Army physical fitness test, weapons qualification and land navigation event on Monday; warrior tasks and battle drills, written exam and a mystery event followed on Tuesday; and a 12-mile road march in full gear was the primary challenge Wednesday.

Sgt. Maj. Donna King, CASCOM G3 senior enlisted adviser and event coordinator, said Soldiers represented their units and themselves well during the first few days of the contest.

"It's been a great competition," she said. "The competitors are game-changing professionals who are exceptional at what they do. They are really motivated, and I couldn't ask for a better group of warriors to participate in the event."

Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Tovar, competing in the platoon sergeant of the year category, said Soldier skills events like Ultimate Warrior help maintain and improve skills, and enhance knowledge and abilities.

"These competitions are always good training," said Tovar, who represented the Soldier Support Institute. "They have the ability to push you further and allow you to work on skills that you don't get to practice on a day-to-day basis."

At the end of the day, said Tovar, Soldier skills competitions like Ultimate Warrior benefit the Army's training strategy because participants are expected to share their experiences.

"This is not the first time I've been in competitions like this one," said Tovar. "I use them to train Soldiers, specifically for those in my [military occupational specialty], who don't get to do this very often. It is really beneficial when the Soldiers see that I'm tactically proficient."

On Monday, the weapons qualification and land navigation events presented Soldiers with a full day of constant, gently falling rain and muddy conditions. The Soldiers didn't seem to be affected by the adverse weather, but many were awakened to the realization that the competition will be fraught with difficulty in one way or another.

"I realized that I'm not as good at some of the tasks as I originally thought," said Tovar, "specifically because these are things I don't do day-to-day. Some of these tasks are not required at my schoolhouse."

The warrior tasks and battle drills requirements at the schoolhouse tend to be a bit different than that of the operational Army, said Tovar.

A human resources NCO, Tovar represented one of several different military occupational specialties entered in Ultimate Warrior. The list included motor transport operators, automated supply specialists and wheeled vehicle mechanics, among others.

The competition was not as diversified, however, from a Soldier-NCO standpoint. Only one Soldier of the year contestant was listed among nine NCOs competing in the various categories. That Soldier, Spc. Marquis Wright, said the lack of competition is disconcerting but not an inhibiting factor.

"I have NCOs who are here watching me, so I would rather do well than become complacent," he said. "I just want to try and do my best at every event."

Wright and the other competitors are scheduled to participate in a board competition today, which will conclude Ultimate Warrior. The winners in each category will be announced at an awards ceremony that will be scheduled sometime in the near future.

CASCOM's Ultimate Warrior winners will proceed to the Training and Doctrine-level competitions scheduled for July. Winners in the TRADOC Soldier and NCO of the year event will advance to the Department of the Army Best Warrior Competition, scheduled to take place at Fort Lee in October.