Redstone Arsenal, Ala. –A U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command Soldier earned runner-up in the Soldier category of the U.S. Army Materiel Command’s “Best Warrior” competition, held July 9-10 at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, using video-teleconferencing technology.
Spc. Jariel Fuentes, a military police officer based at Letterkenny Army Depot in Pennsylvania, was selected as the first runner-up in the AMC competition. Fuentes, along with another AMCOM Soldier and two AMCOM noncommissioned officers (NCOs) were part of a field of 13 competitors from around the world in the annual AMC contest.
The “Best Warrior” Competition is a progressive competition to select the U.S. Army’s Noncommissioned Officer of the Year and Soldier of the Year. Eleven eligible Army commands and direct reporting units test and send their finest warriors to the Army level of competition.
“Best Warrior” candidates representing AMCOM at the AMC level of competition included:
Staff Sgt. Michael Kelly, CH-47 helicopter repairer assigned to the Aviation Center Logistics Command, Fort Rucker, Alabama. Kelly joined the Army in 2003 and graduated as the honor graduate from Advanced Individual Training at Fort Eustis, Virginia. During his 16 years in uniform, he’s served with the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Kentucky; 4th Infantry Division, Fort Hood, Texas; 1st Armored Division, Fort Bliss, Texas; 110th Aviation Regiment, Fort Rucker, Alabama; and 2nd Infantry Division, Korea. He’s deployed twice to Iraq and once to Afghanistan. Kelly hails from San Diego, California.
Sgt. Cody Cohen, military police officer at Letterkenny Army Depot, Pennsylvania. He’s served in the Army for 8 years. “When my grandfather passed away. I felt [joining the Army] was something I needed to do,” Cohen said. He has served at several duty stations and deployed twice to Joint Task Force Guantanamo, at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba. He decided to compete in the Best Warrior Competition to better himself as a Soldier, and broaden his knowledge. “I'm always out there to challenge myself, to learn new things and exercise my knowledge,” he said. “What better way to do that than the Best Warrior Competition?” Cohen is a native of Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
Cpl. Jackie Hernandez, military police officer at Corpus Christi Army Depot, Texas. He’s served in the Army for 4 years. During that time, he’s deployed to Joint Task Force Guantanamo, at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba, and worked the 2017 Presidential Inauguration. His short-term goals are to graduate the Basic Leaders Course and become a drill sergeant. His long-term goals are to earn a master’s degree in psychology and become an FBI agent so that he can make a difference in as many lives as possible. Hernandez is from Knightstown, Indiana. His inspiration for achieving excellence comes from his step-mother, “She was more of my mother than a stepmom, because she raised me from the time I was nine years old,” he said. “She recently passed due to cancer. I remember when I found out, I was doing the CCAD BWC, and she told me that she was proud of me and that she thought I could win the whole thing. So when she passed, that stuck in my head. I’ve dedicated everything I've accomplished, so far, in this competition in her memory. She and my father have always been my number one supporters.”
Spc. Jariel Fuentes – AMC runner-up, Soldier category – has six years of Army service, including a deployment to Honduras in 2017. Fuentes is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Forensic Psychology and plans to be a career Soldier. His hobbies include sports, gardening and chess. He chose to compete for “Best Warrior” to challenge himself. “I wanted to see how far I can go,” he said. “I want to show myself that I am capable of doing things like this.” Fuentes is a native of Salinas, Puerto Rico.
“Those competing for the Army ‘Best Warrior’ title truly embody the Soldier’s Creed and the Army Values,” said AMCOM Command Sgt. Major Mike Dove. “Not only are they top performers in their daily work, physical fitness and common soldier skills, many commit countless hours of study and practice outside of regular duty time to achieve excellence.”
Because of COVID-19 travel limitations, Soldiers competed at their individual units and those winners advanced to the virtual competition hosted from AMC headquarters at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama. AMCOM’s “Best Warrior” candidates joined nine other Soldiers and NCOs from units throughout AMC for the Command Sergeants Major Board Appearance.
“Some participated in the board proceedings from as far away as Germany, Italy, and Kuwait, and as close as Fort Rucker, Alabama,” said Dove.
A panel of six sergeants major asked warriors a variety of questions on topics such as military leadership and counseling, current events, Army physical readiness training, NCO duties and responsibilities, maintenance, unified land operations, enlisted promotions, land navigation, the Soldier’s Creed, and other focus areas. The board also included a thorough records review, said Dove.
“It’s very difficult to select only two winners from among so many top-notch Soldiers and NCOs. It was an extremely close competition,” said Dove, who served as one of this year’s board members at the AMC competition. “They all represent individual excellence within the Army profession and should be very proud of the hard work it took to get to this level of competition.”
AMC’s Best Warriors will advance to the Army-level competition, currently slated for Oct. 1-15 at Fort Knox, Kentucky. The Best Warrior competitors participate in rigorous tests of skill, knowledge and ability, demonstrating physical and mental excellence. As AMC’s runner-up in the Soldier category, Fuentes will continue training and accompany AMC’s representatives to the Army contest.