WAHIAWA, Hawaii - The battle for the four Soldiers and four noncommissioned officers who will compete in the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command's Best Warrior Competition in July is underway.

The SMDC Pacific Region, the command's second competition for 2019, took place April 21-24 at Wahiawa, and the winners were announced the last day during a recognition luncheon. Sgt. Brandon T. Eastman, senior satellite communications controller, Company E, 53rd Signal Battalion, was named the Noncommissioned Officer winner, and Spc. Jared A. Geurts, satellite communications controller, Company D, 53rd Signal Battalion, was named the Soldier winner.

"I feel honored, and I'm really glad I came out here and did this," Eastman said. "It was a great experience and a great learning experience. I met a lot of great Soldiers from Delta Company. It was a very competitive, and I respect my opponent. He gave me a run for my money."

Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Bell, 1st Space Brigade command sergeant major, said these types of events are very important for Soldiers to participate in because it sets them apart from their peers.

"It's important for Soldiers and NCOs to compete in these competition because it allows them the opportunity to see how they measure up against their peers," Bell said. "And winning separates them from their peers and gives them an opportunity to showcase their leadership abilities and physical skills to the senior leadership throughout the command.

"I'm very confident that they'll do very well at the SMDC competition. As long as they train up and work on areas they're weak in, they should excel," Bell said. "Every competitor did very well on the competition. They were motivated throughout the whole event, and you could tell they were truly giving their best."

Company D, 53rd Signal Battalion planned and executed the Pacific Region competition.

"Delta Company did an outstanding job planning and executing the competition," Bell said. "The events were challenging and the NCOs and Soldiers involved were very professional. SFC (Adam) Tripses (Company D acting first sergeant) did an outstanding job bringing everything together."

The competition included two NCOs: Eastman and Sgt. Alex D. Martin, senior SATCOM controller, Company D, 53rd Signal Battalion, and two Soldiers: Pfc. Brent Y. Ching, SATCOM controller, Company E, 53rd Signal Battalion, and Geurts, competing in these areas: Army Physical Fitness Test, a board, a test and essay, night land navigation, day land navigation, a 12-mile ruck march, weapons qualification and combatives.

The day and night land navigation events caused mixed reactions among the winners. Eastman said the event was stressful because it was worth so many points and some of the points they were looking for were only separated by 50 feet or 1 degree. Geurts said he enjoyed it the most.

"My favorite event was actually land nav, actually night land nav specifically," Geurts said. "It's a different world out there - you see it during the day and then you go at night and it's just completely different and everything looks different and it's just a whole different game. I enjoy exploring."

Geurts' least favorite event was the ruck march. He said that even though he made good time during the event, it was mentally challenging and physically draining.

Eastman said his favorite event was the test and essay. He said moving forward he was going to focus on strengthening his weaknesses.

"I'm definitely going to strengthen some of the weaknesses," he said. "Obviously I'm not perfect in any of these, I didn't score a 100 on any event. I'm going to play on my strengths and cover my weaknesses at the same time."

The first competition, SMDC's European Region, took place April 14-18 at Baumholder, Germany. Sgt. Kyle Swartz, Joint Tactical Ground Station-European Command, was named the Noncommissioned Officer winner, and Spc. Tanner Anderson, satellite communications controller, Company C, 53rd Signal Battalion, was named the Soldier winner.

Eastman, Geurts, Swartz and Anderson received the Army Achievement Medal for their accomplishment. The next competition scheduled is Western Region April 29-May 3, and then the Eastern Region competes May 6-10. The command's Best Warrior Competition is scheduled in July in Colorado Springs, Colorado.