FORT BRAGG, N.C. -- Featuring the most tactical, proficient and lethal Citizen-Soldiers, the 2018 U.S. Army Reserve Best Warrior Competition kicked off Sunday, June 9 with an informal mixer at Marshall Hall.

Soldiers shuffled in one by one, donning the typical markings of business casual attire: khakis and an assortment of plain-colored polos. There was also the occasional t-shirt for more leisurely competitors, and one unexpected three-piece suit.

But one Soldier in particular commanded attention when he entered the hall in his vibrant, varicolored tunic featuring traditional African design.

"It was a pretty sweet shirt," remarked fellow competitor Sgt. Chase Craig of the 3rd Company, 290th Observation and Control Training Battalion, 1st Brigade, 91st Training Division, 84th Training Command.

The USAR Best Warrior Competition is a microcosm that showcases the capability and cultural diversity of America's Ready Reserve. Competitors from near and abroad have come forth to put their warrior skills to the test. Among them is Spc. Pateh Jawo of the 7387th Blood Detachment, Southern Regional Medical Area Readiness Support Group, Army Reserve Medical Command in Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey.

Originally from The Gambia, Jawo is one of nearly 40 Reserve Soldiers competing for the title of U.S. Army Reserve Best Warrior this year. He entered the competition to challenge himself.

"I'm testing my own limits. It's a form of challenging my potential," Jawo expressed. For him, service isn't about "what the Army gives you, but what you can give back to the Army, and this is a perfect time to show the Army what I can give," he added.

Jawo emigrated in 2010 in pursuit of more abundant educational opportunities in the U.S. He earned an associate degree in Medical Laboratory Science at George Washington University, and he is currently completing a baccalaureate program at his alma mater. He is a life-long learner with plans to enter graduate and doctorate programs in Public Health, with the ultimate goal of becoming a physician specializing in the elimination of infectious diseases.

Jawo serves as a medical lab technician at his home unit, analyzing various fluid samples and tissue cultures. In the civilian sector, he works at the chemistry and hematology co-lab at Jacobi Medical Center in Bronx, New York. He is certified by the American Society of Clinical Pathology and the New York State Department of Education in medical laboratory technology.

As he advances in his medical career, Jawo hopes to return to his country, known around the world as the "Smiling Coast of Africa," to deliver medical aid: "Someday, I'll go and help as a philanthropist because this is where I come from, and that's where my family is."

Jawo became a naturalized citizen while completing a medical residency program, and he enlisted in the Army Reserve in 2015 as an act of gratitude to the country that enabled him to pursue his educational and professional ambitions. "I came here to study as a student . . . and I joined the Army to help out. This was the only way that I can give back to what (America) has given me."

To say that Jawo has given back is an understatement; he has given his best. Jawo received a Certificate of Achievement for being the most exemplary laboratory student at Tripler Army Medical Center in Hawaii. He's also earned three Army Achievement Medals for his outstanding physical fitness. He received a coin from from the North Pacific Commander for completing the Army Physical Fitness Test two-mile run in just 9:06 minutes and 102 pushups in under two minutes while training at TAMC. Former Army Chief of Staff General Raymond Odierno presented Jawo with a coin during his swearing-in ceremony on the Army's birthday as well.

Duty, selfless service and integrity are three of the Army Values that motivate Jawo to give his very best physically, tactically and professionally. He carries these values with him in the civilian sector. "(My colleagues) see me as a special person in my walk, ethics and the way I interact with other people," he said.

As he develops in his civilian career, he intends to serve as a Soldier for life with aspirations to one day earn the rank of general. "I feel that I have the capacity and the knowledge to do anything that I want," he said. "Wherever there is a will, there is always a way. That's my code."

The Warrior Ethos are also an integral part of Jawo's personal code. "I signed [on] to make sure that I defend this country . . . (and) I will always place the mission first." His commitment to country and drive to excel are the factors that have brought Jawo to the Best Warrior Competition. Though the challenge is formidable, and only two top competitors can win, there's one thing that's certain: he's giving his best.