Fort Leonard Wood's Staff Sgt. Ryan McCarthy, 1st Engineer Brigade, claimed the 2017 Training and Doctrine Command's Noncommissioned Officer of the Year title July 21.

"Honestly, it didn't hit me until the next day," McCarthy said about his win. "(Winning is) extremely rewarding. Probably one of the most rewarding things in my Army career."

The Belgrade, Maine, native competed against noncommissioned officers from across Army TRADOC installations in the Best Warrior Competition held at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.

"The level of competition at this one was so much higher than any I have done," McCarthy said. "All of these guys are the best at their installations."

Some people believe "TRADOC Soldiers aren't as hooah as other Soldiers," said Command Sgt. Maj. David Davenport, TRADOC's senior enlisted leader, prior to announcing the winners. "I guarantee if you talk to the men and women on that field and they would tell you they are just as hooah as anyone in the Army."

Competitors faced medical testing on day one, July 17; an Army Physical Fitness Test, combatives and appeared before a board on day two; Victory Tower, weapons qualification and a live-fire exercise day three; the Fit to Win 2 obstacle course and situational training exercises on day four; and culminated with the Friday morning ruck march.

"My focus was to take each event, each task, one at a time and not worry about anything else," McCarthy said. "I wanted to go 100 percent at each task I was currently conducting and take one task at a time."

McCarthy said he gave himself about 30 days to prepare following the Fort Leonard Wood competition, focusing on hot topics in the Army and maintaining peak physical conditioning, something he credits for his success in the competition.

"The basis for all this stuff is maintaining a good physical condition. That's what's going to make you succeed in these competitions from my experience," he said. "If you can maintain physical fitness, and be in the top three physically, you can win this."

McCarthy said he maintained his pace of giving his all for each event, and put himself in position to finish at the top before the final ruck-march event.

"A good focus for these things is you are not going to win every event," he said. "But if you win a few, and keep yourself at the top consistently, you will be successful. I did know going into the ruck, the last event, I had a good shot."

He ended up finishing first in the ruck by a "pretty good time," he said. "I did feel very confident at the end I was going to take it."

McCarthy will go on to vie for the title of Department of the Army's NCO of the Year in the 16th annual competition.

"When we get to the Army level, the competition is twice as high as it was here," McCarthy said. "Literally the best of the best in the entire Army will be competing there."

This is the culminating test for NCOs and Soldiers of the Year from 10 Army commands across the globe, recognizing Soldiers who demonstrate commitment to the Army values, embody the Warrior Ethos and represent the Force of the Future.

"At the end of the day, you are competing, trying to beat these guys, but the esprit de corps and the camaraderie is unbelievable at these competitions," McCarthy said. "We are all one team. It is an individual competition, but we are representing an organization bigger than ourselves."

The Army Best Warrior Competition is slated to be held in the fall of this year at Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia.