WASHINGTON -- For the fourth time in nine years, a U.S. Army Reserve Soldier has been named the U.S. Army's Best Warrior.
Staff Sgt. Andrew Fink, a healthcare specialist with the 409th Area Support Medical Company, 807th Medical Command (Deployment Support), was named the U.S. Army Noncommissioned Officer of the Year, Oct. 12, after competing in the weeklong Best Warrior competition held at Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia.
Fink is the second U.S. Army Reserve NCO to claim the title in the last three years.
The Cook, Minnesota, native earned his spot at the Army-level competition after winning the U.S. Army Reserve Best Warrior competition at Fort Bragg, N.C., in May.Fink, and fellow U.S. Army Reserve Soldier, Spc. Bryce Parker, with the U.S. Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations (Airborne), competed with 24 other Warriors, representing 13 Army commands at the competition.
He said this year's competition had a few surprises.
"We did a prone, unsupported zero with our M4 rifles," Fink said. "Typically, every Soldier is used to zeroing in the prone, supported position so that was a little surprising. In another lane we had to crawl through a tunnel system, gather some intelligence the commander wanted, then they called, 'Gas! Gas! Gas!' so we had to put on our protective mask and then file our report on what we had observed."
He said the scenarios they encountered throughout the competition were "incredible" and he praised the AWG (Asymmetric Warfare Group) for testing and training us."
Before coming to the U.S. Army Reserve, Fink deployed to Afghanistan as a combat medic with the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, serving in a reconnaissance platoon.
"Being a Ranger and serving in the Ranger Battalion has prepared me to be a Soldier and a leader," Fink said.
He also commended Maj. Lisa Jaster, the first U.S. Army Reserve female Ranger who graduates from the Ranger school Friday.
"Those lessons learned through all that tough, realistic training that you get in Ranger school really enables you to be a leader in a complex world," Fink said. "I know she'll feel the same way."
Now serving as an Active Guard and Reserve Soldier, Fink said competing in Best Warrior was a way to set an example for others in his unit.
"I wanted to show my young Soldiers that if you make a plan, train hard, set goals, and focus on your mission, you can accomplish anything," Fink said.
He added there was also a personal physical challenge to competing this year. In September 2013, Fink underwent a meniscus repair and micro-fracture surgery on his right knee.
"I also wanted to show myself that I cold still compete physically and mentally with the best, at a high level, after major knee surgery a year and half ago."
Fink's military service is a continuation of his family's history of military service.
His father, Thomas, served as an infantryman with the D Troop, 1st Aviation Brigade, 17th Cavalry Division in Vietnam in 1972. Thomas' grandfather served in World War I and he had three uncles serve in World War II, including one who was captured by the Germans in Anzio, Italy and was able to escape.
"With both of us being combat veterans it's a special bond we both can share," Fink said. "I'm extremely proud that I'm able to carry on that tradition."
His mother, Karen, said Andrew has become an instant celebrity in Cook which has a population of about 600 residents.
"He's been in the paper a couple of times already and will be again, I'm sure," Karen said.
Both Thomas and Karen attribute their son's wits and heart to his military successes.
"He's naturally smart and really quick and he keeps himself physically fit," Thomas said.
"He has a lot of heart and is very determined. When he wants something, he just goes for it. He's very focused and really gives it his all," Karen said.
Fink said he could hear the excitement in their voices when he called to tell them he had won the competition.
"I know they would have been proud of me whether I won or lost," Fink said. "My dad is always pushing me to do my best and I was fortunate enough to come out on top."
Fink said that he has been fortunate to have leaders in both the active and reserve to give him direction and be mentors to enable him to be successful in his eight-year military career.
"I want to share this experience with my Soldiers and hopefully get them excited about competing next year," Fink said. "It's a great learning experience."
Fink also said without the support of his chain of command and his family, none of this would have been possible.
"I want to thank my family, friends, and my girlfriend for sacrificing their personal time to help me out. I couldn't have done this without them," he said.Previous U.S. Army Reserve winners at the Army-level competition were: Spc. David Obray, 2008 and Sgt. 1st Class Jason Manella, 2013. In 2006, Spc. John Emmett, a U.S. Army Reserve Soldier on active duty in Europe, won the competition but because of his assignment in Europe, USAREUR was credited with the win.