Fort Hood, TX--SPC Raphael Waller, a nodal networking operator system maintainer, 207th Signal Company (207th Sig Co.), Special Troop Battalion (STB), 1st Cavalry Division Sustainment Brigade (1CDSB), and Sgt Jaemin Park, finance NCOIC, 15th Financial Management Support Company (15th FMSU), STB, 1CDSB, were identified as the winners of the brigade's NCO and Soldier of the Year Competition, March 4.

The brigade competition tested the mental and physical endurance of five soldiers from 1CDSB over a three-day period that began March 30 at Fort Hood, Texas.

The Soldier and NCO of the Year Competition is the culminating test for NCOs and Soldiers who demonstrate commitment to the Army values, embody the Warrior Ethos and represent the Army's future force.

Each soldier was tested mentally and physically during the competition, which included an Army Physical Fitness Test, weapons qualifications, warrior task and battle drills, day and night land navigation course, a written exam, and a 12-mile ruck march that pushed them to their limit, and finally they each had to appear before a board.

"This competition has multiple layers to it. It's about having a physical and mental balance. You have to keep pushing beyond what's comfortable and drive on," said Staff Sgt. Deanna Cubert, current operations NCOIC. "That is why these soldiers were selected, because their leaders knew they have what it takes to compete in such a rigorous competition."

The competition benefits mission readiness, and is designed to provide the most realistic training to exhibit the core skills the Army deems critical to succeed on the battlefield, as well as the attributes that often accompany them.

"I thought it would be fun to do and I really wanted to put my best foot forward," said Waller. "I wanted to test myself and push my limits."

Waller admitted he never, at any point in the competition, thought that he was winning because he started out slow and anxiety got the best of him.

"It was a tough competition. It was stressful and intense, but I told myself I couldn't let it defeat me mentally," said Waller. "I realized that I needed to calm down, not rush and focus on one obstacle at a time."

Park is also in the running to compete for the Finance NCO of the Year Competition, which shares similar tasks as the NCO and Soldier of the Year competition.

"Win or lose, I wanted to participate in the brigade competition because it will only help me get better," said Park. "This competition gave me the opportunity to identify my weaknesses, work on my warrior tasks, as well as test my mental and physical endurance."

Park said in the case he does get selected to compete for Finance NCO of the Year, he is prepared to face the challenges that come with it, but for now he will continue to train and prepare for 1st Cavalry Division's Best Warrior Competition that will be held April 23-27.

Since the start of the competition, the competitors maintained an extremely tight race for the top honor of Solider and NCO of the year," Cubert said. "We knew that it would come down to the final two events: the 12-Mile Ruck March and the Board."

Both winners agreed that the most challenging part of the competition was the 12-mile ruck march that began at 4 a.m. on the final day of the competition, which Waller and Park completed in less than three hours.

Aside from winning the competition, Waller and Park shared another common sentiment. They both agreed that going into the division competition, there will be more fierce competitors, and it will be a lot harder and a lot more pressure, but they will put forth their best effort to win.

"The competition was really close," said Command Sgt. Maj. Anthonette Horton, command sergeant major for the STB. "Everyone that participated is a winner and a true professional."

One of the many remarks from the competitors that set in the most was how much they gained from the competition.

"As leaders we should always strive to not only train, but also challenge our Soldiers, and with this competition, it did exactly that," added Cubert.