Maneuver Support Center of Excellence senior leaders announced the winners of the 2019 Best Warrior Competition during a ceremony held Friday on Gammon Field.

MSCoE's 2019 Best Warriors are: Drill Sergeant of the Year Sgt. 1st Class Marianne Russell, Company C, 58th Transportation Bn.; NCO of the Year Staff Sgt. Anthony Conrado, Co. B, 31st Engineer Bn.; and Soldier of the Year Spc. Jennifer Arnold, 399th Army Band. All will go forward representing MSCoE as they compete at the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command competition scheduled to be held in July at Fort Rucker, Alabama.

Also earning the honor of being one of MSCoE's top service members is Joint Service NCO of the Year Marine Sgt. Troy Williams, Marine Corps Detachment; and Joint Service Junior Enlisted Member of the Year Sgt. Jorge Morales, 1st Engineer Brigade.

"What we see in front of us is the finest of Fort Leonard Wood," said Col. David Caldwell, MSCoE chief of staff. "You really are the best-of-the-best, and the fact that you are sitting there and you were able to gut it out, to work through the unknown and figure out how to navigate that. Really it's a testament to your professionalism."

According to Command Sgt. Maj. James Breckinridge, MSCoE and Fort Leonard Wood, the competitors never knew what was coming next as they endured three straight days of "increasingly tough" mental and physical challenges in austere conditions, all while demonstrating great passion for and pride in their mission.

"Passion is the cornerstone of leadership. How can we expect our subordinates and peers to follow us if we are not passionate leaders? Leaders care and sacrifice for others," Breckinridge said. "These competitors have embodied passion and the commitment it takes to become the world's greatest leaders."

The passion of leading and molding others is what drove Williams throughout the competition.

"I'm big into leadership and making sure that my junior Marines are able to have something to look up to and push forward to," Williams said. "I want to influence them to be better than myself."

Concentrating on finishing the competition rather than winning kept Conrado going.

"I never thought I was going to win, or even thought about it, because I didn't want to get complacent," Conrado said. "It never really crossed my mind. I was just thinking about finishing and honestly getting back to work. If I would not have won, I still would have come out with a positive outlook on it. I learned a lot about myself in some ways, so I think everyone should at least try it out if they want a challenge."

Breckinridge said learning what one is capable of and self-growth were some of the things organizers had in mind when creating this year's competition.

"A competition like this helps to inspire and motivate the next group of NCOs and warriors to chase after your success -- to one day surpass you. You encourage them to train harder and stay more focused and they could be standing in your place next year," Breckinridge said.

He added, "You're going to take this experience, you're going to take this knowledge and confidence gained from this competition and take it back to your unit. Use it to build and shape the next generation, and, at the end of the day, we all need to remember to keep growing. I for one cannot wait to see what each and every one of you will do throughout your career."

Caldwell said the competitors will be better leaders from not only going through the competition, but for the hard work and preparation it took to get this far.

"In the end, what you really represent is the future of our armed services," Caldwell said. "Personally, and I think I speak on behalf of everybody here, I feel pretty darn confident that we've got the right people rising through the ranks and taking charge and leading our Soldiers as we continue to move forward and fight our nation's battles and wars and deal with all the unknown tasks that will certainly head our way."

(Editor's note: Morales was a specialist at the time he was selected to compete and was recently promoted to sergeant.)