BAUMHOLDER, Germany -- Installation Management Command Directorate-Europe announced its 2018 Best Warrior and Soldier of the Year today during a ceremony at the Wagon Wheel Theater here, March 14.

Spc. Nicholas N. Kernen of U.S. Army Garrison Ansbach earned IMCOM-Europe's Soldier of the Year and Sgt. Jeremy Lucena of USAG Bavaria earned the title of Noncommissioned Officer of the Year.

Nine Soldiers from IMCOM-Europe garrisons tested their strength, stamina and mental acuity during three days of hard-hitting warrior tasks, March 12-14.

This year's Best Warrior Challenge, hosted by U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz, showcased competitors' Soldiering skills during a series of physical and mental tasks to include day and night land navigation, marksmanship, physical fitness, board appearances, written exams, obstacle course, ruck marches and several additional tasks and drills.

The competitors are part of a Strong Europe team building partner capability to deter aggression, and each individual, in their own way, supports our allies, partners and NATO, remarked IMCOM-Europe Director Michael Formica.

"I am honored to be with you today and with these tough competitors who represent our ready and resilient formations," Formica said. "They remind us that the Army's greatest asset is people, the finest men and women our great nation has to offer."

That is why this competition is centered on Soldiers who demonstrate a commitment to Army values and the warrior ethos, the director said.

"This group of Soldiers, and every IMCOM-Europe teammate, belongs to a globally engaged Army," he continued. "They are part of a Strong Europe team that is providing deterrence and enhancing partner capabilities."

IMCOM-Europe's Command Sgt. Maj. Ulysses D. Rayford also congratulated the Soldiers for their considerable performance.

"You represent what our Army is about -- dedication and commitment," the sergeant major said. "Everyone worked hard to get here, and it showed during an extremely tough, compressed schedule that forced you to complete three or four days' worth of tasks in what was really two days."

After two days of grueling events, Kernen, a logistics specialist with USAG Ansbach, said he was glad it was finally over.

"I feel pretty good now that it's over," said the Soldier of the Year. "It was a lot of hard work -- physically and mentally."

The hardest part of the competition for Kernen was navigating the obstacle course.

"You had to use a lot of upper body strength as well as strategy," he said. "I'll work on that for the next competition."

Lucena said he trained his entire career for this moment and was glad it paid off.

"I'm really excited because I never won anything before in my entire military career," said Lucena, a military police officer with USAG Bavaria. "For the next level, I'm going to study very hard. I know my weaknesses from the competition and train on them to prepare myself."

Soldier of the Year competitors:
Spc. Nicholas N. Kernen, USAG Ansbach
Spc. Jacqueline Delgado, USAG Benelux

NCO of the Year Competitors:
Sgt. Trayvon A. Johnson, USAG Ansbach
Staff Sgt. Jeremy Lucena, USAG Bavaria
Sgt. Kiana Mitchell, USAG Bavaria
Sgt. Jacobus G. Wood, USAG Benelux
Staff Sgt. Adrian Fuentes, USAG Italy
Staff Sgt. Terrence Aursby, USAG Stuttgart
Staff Sgt. Howard Woodberry III, USAG Wiesbaden

Kernen and Lucena will represent Europe at the IMCOM Best Warrior Competition at Camp Bullis, Texas.