FORT BENNING, Ga. (March 28, 2018) -- The Maneuver Center of Excellence and Fort Benning held the local Best Warrior Competition ceremony for the best Soldier, best noncommissioned officer, and best drill sergeant, March 19 during the MCoE and Fort Benning change of command rehearsal.

All three competitors will move on to the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command level of the Best Warrior Competition, which takes place at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, for the drill sergeant at a time to be determined and at Fort Gordon, Georgia, for the Soldier and NCO July 15 through 20.

"The Best Warrior Competition is the best of the best from each brigade here within the Maneuver Center of Excellence," said Sgt. Maj. Kelvin Nolen, operations sergeant major for the MCoE.

Each unit chooses Soldiers and NCOs and, if they have them, drill sergeants of the quarter. From each unit, the Soldier, NCO and drill sergeant of the year moves on to take part in the Best Warrior Competition.

This year's competition took place March 5 through 8. The first day included the Army Physical Fitness Test, qualifications on various weapons systems, and a written essay. March 6 included a night and day land navigation course, a call for fire, a Warrior Training Center obstacle course, a mystery event, a medical simulation and combatives. March 7 started with a 12-mile foot march with a 35-pound pack; reaction to chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear event; and a written exam. And the final day of competition included testing specific for drill sergeants and board appearances.

Even after competition organizers had tallied the competitors' points and had determined the top competitor in each category, the competitors had to wait for the results, which were announced at the dress rehearsal for the Maneuver Center of Excellence and Fort Benning Change of Command ceremony.

Those winners were:
-- Soldier of the Year: Spc. John Gilleland, 6th Ranger Training Battalion, Airborne Ranger Training Brigade
-- Noncommissioned Officer of the Year: Sgt. 1st Class Joel Kreusel, Charlie Company, 5th RTB, ARTB
-- Drill Sergeant of the Year: Staff Sgt. Keahi Holder, 198th Infantry Brigade

One difficulty Soldiers at Fort Benning have is, according to Nolen, they often train others on competition skills rather than train themselves.

"Fort Benning is a training installation," said Nolen. "We're here to put Soldiers into the Army and train them on new weapons systems. For the permanent party guys, they don't get as much exposure to the weapons system as the basic training Soldiers."

Kreusel, whose mission with the 5th RTB is training, said one of the difficulties of the competition was re-familiarizing himself to the tasks of the competition.

"Being a Ranger instructor, you don't necessarily do all the skill levels and tasks on a daily basis," he said.

Holder received mentorship from the previous Drill Sergeant of the Year, who helped him prioritize.

"I think preparation was a major factor in me winning this competition," he said.

Holder said for the TRADOC level, he felt "preparing more physically and mentally" was important.

"It will be harder," said Holder. "It will be more intense."

Gilleland found time whenever possible to train for the Fort Benning competition.

"With a busy schedule, there are moments where you're waiting between a meeting or you're sitting around," he said. "Spending that five to 10 minutes here and there, studying notecards, kind of getting an idea of what the competition is going to hold, talking to people from past competitions: That's kind of the way I prepared."

Gilleland found personal reward within the competition itself.

"I made some good friends, met some new guys, and just learned about other sides of the military that I had no idea about before," he said.

For photos of the competition, see the "Related Links" section on this page.