(FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas) - The honor of representing Great Plains Regional Medical Command meant a lot to nine Noncommissioned Officers and 10 Soldier of the Year Candidates participating in the five-day competition beginning Feb. 22.

Ultimately winning the competition meant the opportunity to represent GPRMC at the Medical Command NCO and SOY competition in Fort Lewis, Wash., from March 29 to April 3.

"I would be happy to represent Great Plains," said SOY Candidate Spc. Arlene Sibetang, assistant coordinator of radiology at Darnall Army Community Hospital at Fort Hood, Texas. "It would be an honor to carry the title and compete against MEDCOM to do the best that I can. If I take it, this is a good win under my belt, if not; I'll do it next year and work my way back through the board."

SOY Candidate Spc. William Rosa, a medical lab tech at Brooke Army Medical Center echoed Sibetang's remarks. "To be the Soldier of the Year would be a great honor. It would mean that I was the best leader at Great Plains," he said.

After five challenging days of testing the Soldier's strength and endurance at Camp Bullis in San Antonio, facing the oral board, and months of training and preparation, GPRMC awarded the NCO and Soldier of the Year to Staff Sgt. Steven Mock and Spc. Jonathan Jordan Feb. 27, during an awards ceremony at San Antonio's Holiday Day Inn.

"It (the competition) showed me that to truly succeed at anything difficult; you have to commit your entire mind and body to that task. I am humbled by the many great NCOs' that make up the NCO Corps, past and present, I am just trying to live up to the accomplishments they have made," said Mock, an emergency room shift leader at Carl R. Darnall Medical Center at Fort Hood, Texas.

"The competition was a great training opportunity," said Jordan, whose company was counting on him to win. "I was pumped up not to let them down. When things weren't going my way and it seemed like I might be falling behind I just said a prayer, cleared my head and kept driving forward."

Each Soldier received an Army Commendation Medal; combat medic statue; GPRMC goodies; an eagle statue; $300 worth of savings bonds; $100 gift card and a year membership to Association of the United States Army.

Caught off guard at the awards ceremony, Jordan, a medical supply specialist in the logistics division at Raymond W. Bliss Army Health Center at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., said, "We did not know our scores on many of the events that shaped the competition and I knew it was a close race from the events I could see. Winning didn't sink in, until I called my wife and she was excited sharing the moment with me."

Mock's win meant, he gained the satisfaction of knowing that the time spent preparing mentally and physically was worth it. "But even more so, I was able to work and compete side by side with NCOs that I would be honored to work with in the future and can now count as friends," he said.

For Jordan, winning meant all of his hard work and time put into preparing for the competition paid off. Most importantly, he said, "my prayers were answered."

Although, Mock was declared NCO winner, he won't represent GPRMC in March. Following the competition, he returned to Fort Hood to begin out-processing to Fort Sam Houston, where he will start physician's assistant school in April.

Representing GPRMC NCO at Fort Lewis, Wash. will be Jordan and Staff Sgt. Martha Jasso from Irwin Army Community Hospital, Fort Riley, Kan.

Jasso, a San Antonio native and occupational therapy assistant said, "I feel as though God gave me a second chance to excel for a reason. Then the realization hit that it wasn't over, more training and studying was needed to prepare for the next level."

Jordan said it's important to me to not only to keep up with all my Soldier skills but also to be "constantly striving to better myself and hone my ability to the next level.

The competition lets you know where you stand against your peers." The competition recognizes NCOs and Soldiers who have demonstrated superb military bearing, communication skills, knowledge of various military subjects and the ability to perform a variety of Soldier and Warrior tasks.

Soldier and Warrior tasks included a Army physical fitness test, Army warrior task testing; a forced march, while carrying a weapon and combat gear; day and night land navigation; written exam and essay; weapons qualification; and combatives held at Camp Bullis. The oral board was held at Holiday Day Inn Select.

The goal of each candidate is to obtain a total of 650 points to earn either the GPRMC NCO or Soldier of the Year.

"This is a more in depth level of training," said Soldier candidate Spc. Brandon Unruh of Evans Army Community Hospital in Fort Carson, Colo., "I did detainee operations that almost mirrored what I did for the competition. I put my best foot forward and gave all that I had."

"So many aspects go to be the best. It's good to be the top in one event," said NCO candidate Sgt. Steven Wilson from Reynolds Army Community Hospital at Fort Sill, Okla., who won the NCO level combatives. "It's all about were you come from and how much prep you put into it. These people (NCO and SOY candidates) will be with you through the rest of your career. You come here, and you're good, but there are people, who are better than you. It's a humbling experience."

The next NCO and SOY competition will be held in February or March 2010.