FORT MEADE, Maryland - The U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command named its Eastern Region best Soldier and Noncommissioned Officer warriors following four days of competition March 26-29.

Sgt. Nicola T. Sciara was named the NCO Best Warrior, and Spc. Dylan S. Caramella was named the Soldier Best Warrior. Both Soldiers serve with the Wideband Satellite Communications Operations Center at Company B, 53rd Signal Battalion at Fort Meade.

"I feel great," Sciara said. "The experience of doing this was awesome. The whole day I've been stressed out thinking I didn't do well enough, but I guess giving my best got me where I am."

Three Soldiers: Caramella; Spc. William Horn, Company B, 53rd Signal Battalion; and Spc. Joshua Rodgers, Company A, 53rd Signal Battalion; and three NCOs: Sciara; Sgt. Kaileen Santos-Lopez, Company B, 53rd Signal Battalion; and Sgt. Eric Rafn, Company B, 53rd Signal Battalion, faced off for the competition.

The competition took place at Fort Meade, Camp Fretterd and Gunpowder Rifle Range and included events such as a test and essay, Army Physical Fitness Test, a 12-mile ruck march, round robin obstacle course, day and night land navigation and presentation before a board.

"My favorite event was the 12-mile ruck march," Sciara said. "It was something that was challenging for everybody, and every time we passed each other on the ruck we were all, 'hey how are you feeling? Keep going, you're doing great!' Everyone pulled together, and we finished it at different times but we did it together."

Caramella said the ruck march was both his favorite and his least favorite event.

"My favorite and least favorite event this week would have to be the 12-mile ruck march," he said. "Favorite because I discovered a lot about myself: that I could do it. There was a lot of internal digging, but I did it. Least favorite because it was grueling, that 12 miles and they found every hill. And you don't just walk up it once, you do it eight times."

Command Sgt. Maj. Sean R. Gerner, 53rd Signal Battalion command sergeant major, talked about why this competition is important.

"What this competition does is it takes the total Army Soldier concept and really puts these Soldiers to the test," Gerner said. "All of these competitors stepped up to the plate and volunteered to be put through a relatively physically and mentally demanding week. We are trying to find the best warrior in our region in order to go up and compete at the higher levels. What this does is it takes those Army Warrior Tasks in accordance with that 'Fight Tonight' mentality and measures them and puts them to the test.

"To put this competition on took a lot of planning and a lot of effort. It took about 32 people to support the competition, and that's not including the competitors," he continued. "So, competitors, realize for each one of you to come out here and compete there were four people, at least, supporting what you guys were doing."

In addition to Sciara and Caramella receiving Army Achievement Medals, Gerner also presented medals in recognition of their support to Spc. Christopher S. Brecht, 55th Signal Company, 21st Signal Brigade, combat camera; Spc. Peter Serra, medic; and Sgt. Jennifer Singer, B Company, 53rd Signal Battalion, cadre support.

Caramella said that he trained a lot to get ready for the competition, but after being evaluated he thinks there is a lot he can do to improve and prepare for the SMDC/ARSTRAT Best Warrior Competition scheduled for June 4-8 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Sciara is already planning his training.

"To get ready for Colorado, I'm going to continue training on Army Warrior Tasks, continue to ruck, and probably do a bunch of mock boards with my squad to get these jitters out," Sciara said. "I feel like that will help me out in the long run."

The board was Sciara's least favorite event.

"My least favorite event was the board this morning. Without a doubt I get very nervous during boards," Sciara said. "I feel very uncomfortable. I know that's the whole point of it, to see if you can keep your composure, but I was nervous all morning until I walked out the door then I calmed down a little."

Gerner left parting words to the competitors, support staff and audience.
"To the competitors: It doesn't stop here," Gerner said. "To everyone else: I want to see you in here too."