HEIDELBERG, Germany -- The candidates from the Heidelberg Health Center swept the 2009 Europe Regional Medical Command NCO and Soldier "Best Warrior" competition.

Sgt. Marlon M. Derecho, a medical equipment specialist, and Spc. Ted U. Rowe, a pharmacy specialist, earned top honors in the annual contest, competing against candidates from three other ERMC major units. The winners will represent ERMC at an Armywide Medical Command competition at Fort Lewis, Wash. The winners of the Fort Lewis competition will advance to the Army-level event this summer.

Both Warriors thanked their families and their leadership for helping them through hours of practice and study on the tasks that faced them during a weeklong competition. Derecho had someone else to thank as well.

"I want to thank Captain Daniel (W.) Eggers, a friend of mine," Derecho said. "He died in Afghanistan in 2004. He was the one who got me into the Army, when I was leaning toward going into the Navy."

Derecho, the NCO Warrior of the Year, hails from Ladson, S.C., where his parents, Nestor and Polly, live. His father is retired from the Navy. Derecho is accompanied on this tour by his wife, Kelen.

The sergeant had some advice for Soldiers competing before Army selection boards.

"I went in detached, like I wasn't worried if I won or lost," he said. "It may sound bad, saying you don't care if you win or lose, but it helped me focus and I wasn't as nervous as I had been at other boards. Winning is all about being comfortable and confident."

Rowe credited confidence for his Soldier Warrior of the Year win as well.

"I think you really have to prepare for the board," Rowe said. "If you focus on what you think you might need improvement on, you don't have to worry about your weaknesses when the competition begins.

Rowe is from Dania, Florida, and his parents, Lailes and Randy Rowe, still live there. Rowe's wife, Jennifer, and children Makhyia, 5, Lily, 17 months, and Jaiden, 4 months, are with him in Heidelberg.

The competition was conducted at locations across the U.S. Army Europe footprint, with three of the four major participating units hosting some of the events. The ERMC headquarters staff hosted the event and staged the formal board appearances. The Bavaria Medical Department Activity in Vilseck, Germany, conducted the Army Physical Fitness Test, written exam and essay contest. Day and night orienteering lanes and Warrior skills lanes that took place at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, conducted by LRMC and 30th Medical Command personnel, respectively. Heidelberg Medical Department Activity NCOs ran the weapons qualification range and combatives events.

The winners were honored during an ceremony on Nachrichten Kaserne here Jan. 30.