U.S. ARMY GARRISON BAUMHOLDER, Germany -- The U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command has selected the two winners in its European, the fourth and final, regional Best Warrior Competition.

Sgt. 1st Class Russell W. Merrill was named the best Noncommissioned Officer and Spc. Eduardo Herrera was named the best Soldier for the European region, which took place in Germany April 10-13. Both Soldiers are with Company C, 53rd Signal Battalion.

Two NCOs and two Soldiers competed for the honors: Merrill and Herrera; and Sgt. Brandon L. Cotter and Pfc. Alexander T. Martin, Joint Tactical Ground Station-Europe Command.

"It was a very close competition, and everyone brought their A-game," said Command Sgt. Maj. David Williams, 1st Space Battalion command sergeant major. "They are definitely going to bring a challenge when they come to Colorado Springs. The people who have the home field advantage, per say, are still going to need to worry about these two individuals, especially with the physical part."

Merrill said that the competition was challenging, even if they exceeded it.

"It's awesome. A good challenge. Unexpected. Every event was well worth it, and I was glad I got the chance to get out here and meet these other competitors and get it done," he said. "The most challenging event for me was definitely the ruck march. I'm 38 years old, and I don't think I've ever rucked that far before and these hills out here are something else."

Herrera, who finished the ruck march in two hours and 19 minutes, said that it was mentally testing, but it was not his most challenging event.

"My most challenging event was land navigation," he said. "I was not super familiar with land navigation, but I was able to find some points. My favorite event was the board. Just because it allows you to see a different side of competition and professionalism and it helps you prepare for things you are going to need for your career later on."

The ruck march was also an achievement for Merrill since he also finished the ruck march in under the allotted three hours.

"The most rewarding event for me was also the ruck march because I wasn't planning on making it in four hours let alone under three. That was good," he said. "This competition is something I've always aspired to do throughout my career. I had opportunities when I was younger and always came up a little bit short. I got the chance again now, and I had to take it."

Herrera dedicated his win to his grandmother who passed away Jan. 25 and thanked those who helped him along the way.

"I feel proud, and I'm sure she'd be proud of me," he said. "I want to thank my NCOs and everyone who helped me prepare. It's an individual effort, but it definitely takes a team to get someone ready for a competition like this. I also want to thank the competition. They brought everything they had, and it was close."

The winners from USASMDC/ARSTRAT's four regions will now face off for the command-wide Best Warrior Competition in Colorado Springs, Colorado, May 8-12. They are: Merrill and Herrera; Cpl. Evan Howell and Spc. Samuel Leznik, both from B Company, 53rd Signal Battalion, Fort Meade, Maryland, Eastern region; Sgt. Justin Thompson and Spc. Manuel Martinez, both with D Company, 53rd Signal Battalion, Waihawa, Hawaii, Pacific region; and Staff Sgt. Christian Budeshefsky, 1st Space Battalion, Colorado Springs, Western region.