Thirty-one top Soldiers, NCOs and junior officers from U.S. Army Europe's major subordinate units began competing today in USAREUR's 2014 Best Warrior Competition and Best Junior Officer Competition at the Joint Multinational Training Command in Grafenwoehr, Germany. The contest continues through Sept. 19.

The annual event challenges competitors to complete a series of more than 30 tasks and missions designed to test their knowledge, physical and battlefield skills in hands-on and situational testing and oral and written examinations. Competitors will tackle a day and night land navigation exercise, an obstacle course, a physical fitness test, a hand-to-hand combat tournament, a battlefield medical scenario and other physical activities. Soldiers and officers also participate in a simulated media interview, write an essay, take a written examination, and demonstrate their military knowledge and bearing for a board of sergeants major.

USAREUR Command Sgt. Maj. David S. Davenport Sr. said leader development is more than just schooling, and called the competition a world-class event that serves as a capstone in USAREUR's leader development program.

"USAREUR's best warriors are well-rounded, tough, ready and resilient," Davenport said. "They live the Army values, serve daily as ambassadors to our allies and partners, and lead from the front. Our Best Warrior Competition is a tough, realistic rite of passage that tests the whole Soldier -- physically, mentally and tactically -- and proves that USAREUR Soldiers set the standard for 'Army Strong.'"

While the sergeant major said the competition isn't about winning, it does have an impressive track record. Since yearly contests at the Army level began in 2002, six of the total 24 winners there -- four NCOs and two junior enlisted Soldiers -- represented the Army in Europe.

In turn, the USAREUR-level contenders earned their spots in USAREUR-level contest by being previously selected as their organizations' top Soldier, NCO or officer in local competitions at their units across Europe. While units throughout the Army conduct competitions each year to select their best Soldier and NCO, the Best Junior Officer Competition is unique to USAREUR, and highlights the command's best lieutenants and captains.

This year's competitors are (in alphabetical order):

Pfc. Kevin Alba, Bavaria Medical Department Activity
2nd Lt. William Alfonsi, A Company, 24th Military Intelligence Battalion
Staff Sgt. William Chavis, 7th Army NCO Academy
Sgt. Nicholis Couture, 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment
Sgt. Kyle Craig, C Company, 44th Expeditionary Signal Battalion
2nd Lt. Kristen Daisy, Service Company, 5th Battalion, 7th Air Defense Artillery
Staff Sgt. Jessie Darrett, 5th Signal Command
Sgt. Jonattan Diaz, A Company, Allied Forces North Battalion
Staff Sgt. Carlos Eggins, USAREUR Headquarters Battalion
Staff Sgt. Miguel Garza, U.S. Army Public Health Command District - Northern Europe
Sgt. Andrew Gunner, A Company, 1st Military Intelligence Battalion
Pfc. Nicholas Hanson, 4th Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment
Spc. Paul Islas, D Company, 2-159th Aviation Reconnaissance Battalion
Pfc. Brandon Kirk, C Battery, 5th Battalion, 7th Air Defense Artillery
Capt. Keith Marshall Jr., Public Health Command Region - Europe
Spc. Roberto Mendez, Headquarters and Service Company, USAREUR Headquarters Battalion
1st Lt. Mitchell Messick, A Company, 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry
Sgt. Steven Miles, K Troop, 3rd Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment
Spc. Brody Moran, A Company, 24th Military Intelligence Battalion
2nd Lt. Octavio Mota, 5th Signal Command
Sgt. Elliot Pratt, D Company, 2-159th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion
Pvt. Benjamin Ranew, B Company, 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry
Sgt. Ricardo Ruiz, C Company, Allied Forces South Battalion
Sgt. Sean Salter, Service Company, 5th Battalion, 7th Air Defense Artillery
Spc. James Simo, 21st Theater Sustainment Command
2nd Lt. Sebastian Smoak, Troop B, Regimental Engineer Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment
Staff Sgt. Jordan Stipp, 709th Military Police Battalion
1st Lt. Michael Theising, 15th Engineer Battalion
Spc. Felix Valle Garcia, C Troop, 1st Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment
1st Lt. Kirk Van Everen, 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment
1st Lt. Steven White, Operations Company, USAREUR Headquarters Battalion

Started in 2011, the Best Junior Offcer Competition is unique to USAREUR. The competition is designed to help young leaders keep their minds and skills sharp by pushing them mentally and physically in a challenge that promotes the knowledge, skills, leadership traits and esprit de corps that are fundamental for up-and-coming leaders.

Winners in the Soldier and NCO categories of the Best Warrior Competition will represent USAREUR in competition at the Department of the Army level, Oct. 6-10 at Fort Lee, Va.