REDSTONE ARSENAL, Alabama -- The U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command's 2016 Noncommissioned Officer Best Warrior has won the next level on his way to the Department of the Army Best Warrior Competition.

Sgt. Steven Johnson, Headquarters and Headquarters Company 53rd Signal Battalion, Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado was named the 2016 Military District of Washington Best Warrior Aug. 19.

"There is a very real sense of accomplishment that I have for winning the MDW BWC. The competition was very strong and I went in there knowing that I had the least amount of experience than every NCO I was competing against," Johnson said. "I wanted to prove to myself that I could hold my own against these other NCOs and promised myself that even if I lost, I would put forth an effort that would allow me to leave the competition with my head held high."

USASMDC/ARSTRAT's Soldier Best Warrior, Spc. William Ford, Company C, 53rd Signal Battalion, Landstuhl, Germany, placed second in the MDW competition by mere points.

"Overall it was a really cool experience. All the competitors and sponsors were super helpful and the camaraderie was built quickly," Ford said. "I had other NCOs mentoring me, and just being surrounded by such a group of motivated of Soldiers with over a hundred years of combined experience was really eye opening for me. It got me excited for my future in the Army."

The MDW competition, which lasted Aug. 15-19 at Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia, consisted of a variety of exercise to test each Soldier's skills, including: the Army Physical Fitness Test; hand grenade range; written essay/exam; day and night land navigation; Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills; 9-mile ruck march; qualifying with the M16/M4 rifle, M9 pistol, and M240B/M249 machine guns; M4 stress shoot; prep drill and shoulder stability drill; interacting with the media; and a board.

Johnson and Ford both said the stress shoot was their favorite event. Johnson said the event took him far out of his comfort zone and tested his abilities under pressure. Ford went into a little more detail.

"It was super exhausting after the ruck that morning, but it was a lot of fun doing something so different from a typical Army drill or range," Ford said. "To give a little bit more detail on it, we had to run to a point in full kit, then pick up two ammo cans and bring them to a point. Run some more and then pick up two 45-pound kettlebells and carry them. Then we ran some more and we had five stations where we had to shoot and then perform an exercise after, like burpees then low crawl to the next station. It gave me a much more realistic shooting experience and forced me to muster up some mental fortitude to focus on getting my shots in."

Ford said the hardest events for him were the ruck march and night land navigation. Johnson expanded on what made the night land navigation so difficult.

The hardest event was the night land navigation," Johnson said. "The rough terrain and complete darkness made it an extremely difficult event."

Johnson's next event is the U.S. Army Cyber Command Best Warrior Competition set for Aug. 22-26 at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. If he wins that level then he will proceed to the Department of the Army competition at Fort A.P. Hill, Sept. 26 to Oct. 3.