FORT BRAGG, NC -- Over 25 years ago, families and neighbors filled the streets of Danville, Virginia, to greet Soldiers returning home from deployment. Two brothers with matching toy guns, camouflage pants and A-10 Warthog t-shirts, stood amongst the crowd, as they cheered for the service members.
"After that, all my brother and I wanted were "Ranger" haircuts," said U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Josiah Noble, a Ringgold, Virginia-native.
Years later, after high school and a brief time in college, Noble stood amongst his peers as his platoon sergeant bellowed, 'Who wants to go to Ranger School?'
Noble looked around to see who would volunteer, but no one did. He slowly raised his hand and two months later he was at Camp Rogers in Fort Benning, Georgia. After 62 days of grueling physical and mental training to become a U.S. Army Ranger, Noble finally received his black and gold tab in April 2011, distinguishing himself from his fellow infantrymen.
"It made me feel good to have family there to pin my ranger tab on," said Noble, a platoon sergeant now assigned to the 1st Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division.
Noble says he had always challenged himself both physically and mentally throughout his career, while bringing positivity to others around him.
"My focus throughout the day is keeping a positive mental outlook in order to cultivate that within the organization," said Noble. "If I can set the tone of a respectful, positive culture, that's exciting to me."
His outlook and drive are what made him stand out and be chosen to compete in one of the most grueling competitions known to man, the Best Ranger Competition.
"He does everything 120 percent," said his wife Kelci, a CrossFit instructor in Raeford, North Carolina. "Whatever it is, he puts everything into it. Whether it's work, CrossFit or hunting."
Noble competed in the Best Ranger Competition at Fort Benning for the first time this year, along with his teammate, 1st Lt. Christian Ostrowski, a platoon leader assigned to 1st Bn. 325th AIR. As team 15, both men were the only candidates from the 82nd Abn. Div. to make it to the second day of the competition, attributing it to their experience as jumpmasters and teamwork.
"Both partners need to be mature enough to not overexert themselves trying to keep up with their partner, and both partners need to be honest with how their feeling," said Ostrowski. "This competition revealed that my partner and I could work together under stress."
With this year's competition focused on the 75th anniversary of D-Day, much of the shooting events were based on finding weapons and "coming in fighting," according to Noble.
"I feel that is what we try to ingrain in our Paratroopers every day," said Noble. "We find an LGOP (little group of paratroopers) and come in fighting."
In spite of being awake for nearly 60 hours, Team 15 found both motivation and pressure to perform better as their families cheered them on.
"Having family there was awesome," said Ostrowski, a Media, Pennsylvania-native. "It definitely added pressure to succeed throughout the two days."
It didn't take long after enduring the rigorous competition events for Noble to get back into working out. The fitness enthusiast has partnered with Kelci in several CrossFit competitions. The couple made time on April 16 to tribute a workout of the day, the Hokie, to the memory of the victims of the Virginia Tech shooting. It has been 12 years since the incident that took 32 innocent lives.
"Her family are ticket holders every year in Virginia Tech and my brother graduated from the college," Noble explained. "We have family ties back to the school."
The duo each grabbed a long bar with weights and a jump rope. Smiling to each other, they warmed up before beginning their workout. Together they completed seven rounds of four squat, clean and jerks; 16 deadlifts; and 32 double-unders.
"Come on. You got this! Keep pushing!" Kelci finished her rounds and breathlessly encouraged her husband. "You got this. Almost there."
Kelci won, finishing her workout in 11 minutes and 12 seconds.
With sweat running down their faces, the couple concluded their session with a fist bump and exchanged encouragements.