By Master Sgt. Crista MackAugust 25, 2017
GRAFENWOEHR, Germany - "As a whole the week was pretty crazy," said U.S. Army Europe Soldier of the Year Spc. Jacob Henrikson, one among the four winners announced today at the 2017 European Best Warrior Competition's Soldier, NCO, officer and warrant officer of the year closing ceremony. "This competition was very intense, the physical parts were pretty demanding, but I truly enjoyed doing all the tasks and drills, all the challenges, they are part of my profession."
European best warriors also announced were Officer of the Year 1st Lt. Christian Reeves, Warrant Officer of the Year Chief Warrant Officer 2 Kristopher Gillespie, and Noncommissioned Officer of the Year Sgt. Jonathan Renteria.
"What I saw this week was a lot of heart," said U.S. Army Europe Command Sgt. Maj. Sheryl D. Lyon, who oversaw the competition, following competitors through the many challenges. "I was pleasantly surprised, because they compete as individuals, but what I saw was coaching, teaching, mentoring, grabbing a battle buddy, saying hey do you understand this. What I saw was heart and what I saw was character. I am humbled to be in front of these Soldiers, they are some of the best that the U.S. Army has to offer."
Twenty two of the Army's top warriors, representing 10 commands from across the European theater, to include U.S. Army Africa, competed Aug. 20-25 for these prestigious titles. Representing the 21st Sustainment Command were 1st Lt. Brian Teachout, Sgt. Jacob Rau and Spc. Valentin Wuepper. Representing the 7th Army Training Command were 1st Lt. Wesley Sickman, Staff Sgt. William Threadgill and Spc. Jacob Henrikson. Representing the 173rd Airborne Infantry Brigade Combat Team were 1st Lt. MacClean Lalor, Sgt. Antonio Hernandez and Spc. James Njau. Representing 2nd Cavalry Regiment were Chief Warrant Officer 2 Matthew Engler, 1st Lt. Christian Reeves, Sgt. Nicholas Jackson and Cpl. Eric Melendez. Representing 10th Army Air and Missile Defense Command were Chief Warrant Officer 2 Kristopher Gillespie, 1st Lt. Eric Murray, Sgt. Isaac Haynes and Pfc. Corey Postema. Representing 2nd Signal Brigade was 1st Lt. Jean Domguia. Representing NATO Brigade were Staff Sgt. Burnell Stewart and Sgt. Isaac Ryan. Representing U.S. Army Africa were 1st Lt. Christopher Finseth and NCO of the Year Sgt. Jonathan Renteria.
This year is the first year warrant officers have been included in the annual competition.
"It's very humbling to be named the first Best Warrior Warrant Officer," said Gillespie a missile systems maintenance warrant officer with the Army Air and Missile Defense Command. "It was great to be able partake in the competition with all these Soldiers."
Nearly all of the warriors selected to compete for these prestigious titles successfully navigated multiple hurdles to include company, battalion and brigade level competitions to even earn the right to represent their units at this competition. Packed into the short timeline are a barrage of mental and physical trials and tasks relevant to today's operating environment. Competitors must quickly grapple each new obstacle with minimal preparation or recovery time from the last. Some of the many challenging events include knowledge, use, assembly and disassembly of various weapons systems, a 12 mile ruck march, tactical casualty care under fire, navigating obstacle courses and many more warrior tasks and battle drills.
All winners of the European Best Warrior Competition will travel to Washington, D.C. to represent USAREUR at the annual AUSA Convention in October. Additionally, Renteria and Henrikson will represent U.S. Army Europe and U.S. Army Africa at the 15th annual Best Warrior Competition at Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia, Sept. 30 - Oct. 12, 2017. The DA Level competition names the Department of the Army's Soldier and Noncommissioned Officer of the Year.