JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. -- Forty U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers sit in the Iron Mike Conference Center at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, exhausted from the events of the previous week. It was a week filled with competing in a variety of challenges including firing weapons, land navigation, the Army Physical Fitness Test and various mystery events all while battling high humidity and temperatures in the 80s and 90s.
Among those waiting patiently to hear if their name is announced as the Army Reserve "Best Warrior," is Staff Sgt. Jonathan Anderson, an instructor at the noncommissioned officer academy here.
U.S. Army Reserve's Command Sgt. Maj. Ted Copeland said the Soldiers who made it to the competition displayed the best of what the U.S. Army Reserve stands for.
"These best warriors represent the core values of America's Army Reserve -- the initiative, the drive, the personal courage," he said. "They will take these values and what they've learned in this competition with them and pass it on and grow it."
The competitors' military backgrounds and experience cover the entire spectrum of the Army Reserve, with many of them having deployed to Afghanistan, Iraq or Kuwait.
It's announced that Anderson is the first runner up, falling points behind the U.S. Army Reserve NCO of the Year, Cpl. Carlo Deldonno from 3rd Medical Command. The two winners of the Army Reserve's Soldier and NCO of the Year will compete against winners from the major Army commands in October at Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia. As for Anderson, he will compete if Deldonno is unable to.
Mission requirements are first priority in the Army, something Anderson has some knowledge of.
"I competed once before when I was on active duty. I won for the battalion and was going to go to the brigade level but was pulled for a deployment and I couldn't finish going through the competition," he said.
"It was tough. It tested your physical and mental resiliency. It was just one thing after another. There was no time to break," said Anderson as he recalled the June event.
"I got beat by a corporal," he continued jokingly, "but he was definitely an expert at his craft.
"Going back and looking at it now, you talk about stewardship of our profession, and an event like that really shows you who the stewards are. You see who took the time to train," he added.
Anderson enlisted in the U.S. Army in 2009 as a combat engineer. His small hometown of Poplar Bluff, Missouri sits in-between Memphis and St. Louis, around 20 miles north of the border of Missouri and Arkansas.
Since 2013, he's been in the Active Guard Reserve program and for the last year has been at the joint base NCOA.
"This is a wonderful assignment. I get to meet new Soldiers every month. I get the opportunity to train them and mold them into what I believe is the future of the Army. Working with the different personalities helps you grow as a leader," he said.
The academy teaches specialists and corporals the basic skills to lead small groups of Soldiers. The course topics include leadership, training management, map reading, land navigation, drill and ceremony and warfighting. Any Soldier who wants to move up in rank is required to take this course.
Anderson said he was able to take some "lessons learned" from the competition with him back to the academy.
"I really saw the importance of taking care of your equipment and yourself. We have to maintain a good physical readiness because we could be called on instantly to deploy. We have to become an expert at those basic Soldier skills and then push those onto those junior Soldiers," he said.
Anderson was also quick to thank his sponsor, Sgt. 1st Class Victor Quiles.
"He did everything for me," he said. "He went out of his way completely to make sure I was ready for best warrior."
Anderson is on the fence about competing next year, but is ready to help those who will follow in his footsteps.
"I recommend that every Soldier who's capable of doing this competition should do it. It really opens your eyes on where you are at as far as your basic Soldier skills," he said.