By Daniel P. Elkins
Mission and Installation Contracting Command Public Affairs Office
JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas (May 14, 2020) -- A Mission and Installation Contracting Command Soldier from Fort Riley, Kansas, was named the 2020 Army Contracting Command Best Warrior of the Year following a day-long, virtual competition May 12.
Staff Sgt. Debra Stokes, a contract specialist with the 923rd Contracting Battalion’s 739th Contracting Team, was announced the winner by the ACC commanding general during a May 13 teleconference call with leaders across the command.
Stokes bested six fellow Soldiers from throughout ACC in a competition to select the best qualified NCOs to represent the command at the 2020 Army Materiel Command Best Warrior Competition July 6-17.
“I'm really proud that I was able represent my battalion, brigade and the MICC well in front of ACC leadership. I'm excited to move on to the next level,” Stokes said.
Lt. Col. Robert Bartruff, the 923rd CBN commander and MICC-Fort Riley director, credits Stokes' success at winning the ACC Best Warrior Competition to her professionalism and the time and energy she committed to this highly competitive event.
“Staff Sgt. Debra Stokes is a selfless warrior in the truest sense of the word, she consistently exceeds standards and champions her fellow team members. She has an infectious, can-do attitude with a persistent spirit and volunteers for tough jobs and challenges, setting her eyes well beyond the horizon,” Bartruff said. “Her experience is often sought by peers, and she is an extremely valuable team member at MICC-Fort Riley that can always be relied upon.”
The MICC’s Staff Sgt. Kathlyn Stewart, who has been selected for promotion to sergeant first class, finished as the second runner-up in the competition and also qualified to advance to the AMC Best Warrior Competition. Stewart is a contract specialist with the 900th CBN at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
“I am humbled by the opportunity, because it's not an easy feat to compete at this level,” said Stewart, a native of Dominica. “I know that I will be among some of the very best that the military has, and I plan to meet that challenge head on, giving it all that I have to represent my organization with pride.”
Stewart added that competing was about challenging herself by going outside of her comfort zone and representing her unit with pride.
“It is a great honor to be an ambassador for the Army and a motivation for women in the Army who, like me, doubt whether they have what it takes to compete at this level,” Stewart added.
For both Soldiers advancing to the major command level, preparing to compete in a nontraditional environment due to travel and social distancing restrictions in the Army’s fight against COVID-19 presented a unique test in itself as the virtual approach eliminated an opportunity to size up fellow competitors.
“I cannot control my competitors' actions, I can only make sure that I do my best,” said Stokes, who holds a Master of Business Administration from American Military University. “I knew it was impossible for me to prepare any more than I prepared, so I was confident that if somebody were to beat me, it would be because they truly deserved it.”
Stokes, who calls Beavercreek, Ohio, home, said she relied on reviewing previous competition memorandums of instruction, made more than 1,000 flash cards for study, and took part in multiple mock boards hosted by the battalion.
“I rehearsed my creeds and bio in front of the mirror, in the car and in front of my poor husband and children who couldn't even escape because they are stuck in the house with me due to COVID,” she said. “I think my strongest suit was that this was fun for me. I really like competing. I wanted to do well and present the best version of myself, so I was willing to work hard to make it happen.”
Stewart, who holds a bachelors in accounting from Lehman College of New York, said that while some of the physical, hands-on events were waived for the virtual competition, she relied on studies and experience.
“Going in I knew that I had studied the material. But sometimes that still doesn't help Soldiers going before a board,” Stewart said. “I was able to use my leadership experience along with what I had studied to keep me grounded and confident in answering the questions.”
Both also commend the support by their leadership and organization in advancing to the next level of competition.
“The 923rd Contracting Battalion and my sponsor were instrumental in my winning this competition. This was truly a team effort. My sponsor and I video-chatted almost daily, and she would ask me questions and provide guidance to help me excel,” Stokes said. “My sergeant major and other NCOs in my unit set up mock boards so I could shine at this virtual board. My face might be the one you see, but it's really all the NCOs of the 923rd that made this victory happen.”
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