By Tim Hipps, U.S. Army Installation Management CommandJune 29, 2017
FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas -- Spc. Lillian Lewis, a chaplain's assistant of Morris Hill Chapel with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, United State Army Garrison Fort Riley, is the Army Installation Management Command's 2017 Soldier of the Year.
She shared the spotlight with Staff Sgt. Brendan Hagens from Wiesbaden, Germany, who took home Noncommissioned Officer of the Year honors for the second straight year.
The competition took place at Camp Bullis, a 27,990-acre Army training area in Bexar County, just northwest of San Antonio, Texas. Three days and nights of Best Warrior Competition in the Texas summer heat were followed by a Command Sergeants Major Board. The winners were announced during an awards ceremony June 15 at the Fort Sam Houston Theatre.
Lewis, a native of Marissa, Illinois, was urged to apply for the competition by Command Sergeant Maj. James Collins, senior noncommissioned officer for Fort Riley and president of the Soldier of the Month Board.
"He felt that I would do well," Lewis said.
Once Lewis was approved she had to up her game physically. Aside from her ordinary physical training routine, she said, "I trained with company commander, Capt. (Robert) Deppa."
Deppa is the commander for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, USAG Fort Riley. According to Deppa, he and 1st Sgt. Jason Hasby created a training plan used from late January to the IMCOM best warrior competition that Lewis eventually won.
"In terms of the train up I prioritized physical fitness because to stay engaged mentally you can't get fatigued physically," Deppa said. "In terms of physical priorities we gave a lot of attention to making everyone a better functional athlete and build strength from the ground up. This involved a lot of military movement. We used tire flips, plyometrics, sprints, buddy carries and so forth. We incorporated events like evacuating a casualty during PT (physical training), with penalties for not making time standards, to give a realistic sense of the physical challenges of the competition."
Lewis was one of many Soldiers involved with this training program, Deppa said. Training together with fellow Soldiers helped Lewis stay motivated.
"It was a great experience working with the Soldiers every day," Deppa said. "They all put in a ton of effort and I believe that really pushed Spc. Lewis to get better."
During the four-day competition, Soldiers from IMCOM and Army North competed in physical fitness tests, written exams, urban warfare simulations, warrior tasks and battle drills, including a 12-mile ruck march, which began at 3:35 a.m.
But the toughest part of the competition was not the demands of the competition, it was the demands of the weather.
"The weather in Texas was absolutely more intense than here in Kansas," Lewis said. "It's just an intense heat and humidity we don't have here."
In an interview with the IMCOM Public Affairs, Lewis said "I'm trying to be the best person possible -- for the Army's sake and for my sake. Going forward, it helps me not only to learn more about the Army, since I've only been in for two years, but it also helps me learn more about myself and what I can put myself through."
Lewis gives credit to two groups of people for her successes thus far.
"I want to thank my command and my family," Lewis said. "They've given me the encouragement and strength to continue."
If her military duties and responsibilities will allow it, she said she'd like to give herself a shot to repeat at the next Best Warrior Competition.
Editor's note: Some information for this story was obtained by Andy Massanet, 1st Inf. Div. Post newspaper.