FORT STEWART, Ga. - Third Infantry Division announced the winners of this year's annual Noncommissioned Officer and Soldier of the Year Competition, May 7, at Fort Stewart, Georgia.
Staff Sgt. Joshua Jacques and Spc. Jamie Martinez-Feliciano, fire support specialists with 1st Battalion, 9th Artillery Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division Artillery, will now go on to compete in the XVIII Airborne Corps Best Warrior competition in June.
The three-day division-level competition consisted of events that measured each competitor's physical and mental toughness, resilience, as well as their tactical proficiency.
There were a total of six NCOs and six Soldiers that represented various units across the storied Marne Division.
"The Soldiers were put through the ringer to select the best to test their ability to perform at the next level," said Sgt. 1st Class Jeffery Johnson, operations sergeant for the 3rd ID and the noncommissioned officer in charge of the competition.
To test the bounds of each Soldier's ability, competitors had to go through an array of events including the army physical fitness test, weapons qualifications, a stress shoot, an obstacle course, a swim race, a ruck march, negotiate a land navigation course, a written test and an Army board.
"I needed to push past my limits," said Pfc. Sevon Blakney, a radio and communication security repairer with the 87th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 3rd ID Sustainment Brigade. "You're competing against everybody to be the best."
According to Johnson, the competitors are judged based on a point system for each event. First place received 100 points, second place received 90 points, and third place received 80 points.
The competitors were forced to use different motivators to carry them throughout the competition.
"My mom was my biggest motivation," Blakney said. "We grew up impoverished, with my mom raising eight kids on her own in a two-bedroom apartment while going to nursing school and working a job. She just kept driving on to keep us fed."
Equally determined - Cpl. Janelle Travis, a combat medic assigned to 2nd Combined Arms Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd ID said she needed to treat this competition like her rigorous fitness regimen and fight through the pain.
"The ruck march was especially challenging because it came after a really physical day," said Travis. "With physical fitness being a top priority in my life, I used my training and embraced the suck."
"To succeed, I really just kept thinking about how Command Sgt. Maj. Jonathan E. Reffeor encouraged me to participate and vouched for me. That carried me through," Travis said. "I didn't want to let him down."
Travis said her biggest lesson from this competition is how diverse a competitor has to be to successfully navigate through the challenges.
Blakney said he learned just how much it takes to go through a competition like this and will continue training to enhance his physical readiness and his capability.
"I think the Soldier's biggest takeaway from the competition is knowing what they have to shoot for in future NCO and Soldier of the year competitions," Johnson said. "They can talk about this competition with the Soldiers in their unit and motivate them to participate in the future."
Jacques and Martinez-Feliciano will spend the next few weeks gearing up to compete against other XIII Airborne Corps Soldiers.