FORT GORDON, Georgia -- In preparation for the 2017 Department of the Army Noncommissioned Officer (NCO) of the Year and Soldier of the Year Best Warrior Competition (BWC), Soldiers from the 780th Military Intelligence (MI) Brigade competed in the brigade's BWC April 16 to 21.

Staff Sgt. Humberto Gutierrez, Headquarters and Headquarters Company (HHC), 780th MI Brigade, and Spc. Johnny Long, Detachment Hawaii, 782nd MI Battalion, will represent the brigade as it's best warriors and compete against representatives from the 704th MI BDE, 902 MI Group, Army Field Support Center, Army Operations Group, 1st Information Operations Command (Land), and HHC U.S. Army Intelligence & Security Command (INSCOM) at the INSCOM 2017 North Regional BWC in mid-May.

According to Sgt. Maj. Jesse Potter, operations sergeant major for the 780th MI Brigade, the BWC is a fairly new event. Prior to 9-11, organizations held a panel board to select the NCO and Soldier of the Year to represent their respective units.

"After 9-11, Sergeant Major of the Army, Kenneth Preston, said this selection process is not realistic. This is not realistic of the Total Soldier concept and it is not very realistic of our Army," said Potter at the brigade's BWC selection ceremony. "The Army established the Best Warrior Competition to identify the best warrior. You're not going to be the NCO of the year, or Soldier of the year, you're going to be the best warrior for the Army."

The brigade's week-long event was both physically and mentally challenging.

Many of competitors said the ruck march was the toughest physical challenge and that the panel board was the toughest mentally; however, both the best warrior NCO and Soldier said it was the competition that was the toughest.

"The most challenging event overall was the ruck march," said Long. "It wasn't because they gave us a particularly tough ruck route or the distance. It was because the competition was really steep."

Gutierrez, the brigade's NCO best warrior, spoke about the camaraderie amongst the competitors and how, even though they were competing against each other, everyone was willing to help each other as well.

"It was great working with them. I enjoyed the competition," said Gutierrez. "I really hope to see them all next year."

For each competitor, it was an honor to represent their unit and their fellow Soldiers, but for Long and Gutierrez their job isn't over.

"It means there's more fun to be had, more travel, new experiences," said Long. "Ultimately it means I have a lot more to do in the next couple of weeks, because with some of those events, I have a lot of ground to cover if I'm going to be competitive."

Gutierrez summed up his goal for the INSCOM 2017 North Regional BWC Competition.

"I'm just seeing another mountain…another mountain to climb over. And looking back at this one, seeing I could do it."

The competition started with an APFT, and over the next four days included the following: 20 Army Warrior Tasks; a written essay and exam; disassembling, reassembling, and performing a functions check on an M9 pistol and M4 rifle; M4 zero and qualification; day and night land navigation; a 12-mile road march; an operational fitness challenge consisting of four iterations of 800 meters on a rowing machine, 40 Army PRT (physical readiness training) rowers, and 70 push-ups, followed by pushing and pulling a 200 pound sled, within a one-hour time limit. The competition concluded with a panel board.

Though there was some disappointment for those not making it to the next level, Command Sgt. Maj. Sheldon Chandler, 780 MI BDE, told all the competitors at this level, they are all winners.