FORT BLISS, Texas – Looks of relief and hints of jubilant smiles flashed across Iron Soldiers’ faces as they exhaustedly finished the physical portion of the 1st Armored Division Best Warrior Competition (BWC), May 15.Spc. Gage Paraschos, a cavalry scout assigned to Troop C, 2nd Squadron, 13th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team and native of Mount Bethel, Pennsylvania, and Staff Sgt. James Ferrone, a cavalry scout assigned to Troop B, 2-13 CAV and native of Naperville, Illinois, were announced as the 1AD Soldier of the Year and 1AD Noncommissioned Officer of the Year, respectively, June 11.This year’s competition included a gauntlet of physical events, consisting of a 12-mile ruck march followed by the Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT) and the completion of the Fort Bliss obstacle course during the course of a day. The competition also included an interview with Sgt. Maj. Joseph Denny, the 1AD operations sergeant major and native of Franklin, Indiana, in order to determine the top Soldier and NCO within the division.“As a Soldier, winning the competition has meant a lot to me. I love competition and I always strive to be the best,” said Ferrone. “I was really excited to have the opportunity to compete with the whole division, and winning this has really made me proud.”As winners of the 1AD competition, Paraschos and Ferrone will represent the division at the III Corps Best Warrior Competition. They will showcase the excellence and determination that defines 1AD and Iron Soldiers across the division, setting a strong example for their Soldiers and peers.“Staff Sgt. Ferrone and Spc. Paraschos represent the best of the Iron Soldiers. They are physically fit, mentally tough and resilient, and they showcase 1AD’s ability to rapidly deploy in support of land operations in order to deter or defeat our enemies,” said Denny. “They proved that they are ready for any challenge presented to them. They understand their mission and they set the example for other Soldiers during the BWC this year.”Competitors in the 1AD BWC had their physical endurance, agility and resiliency as well as their mental toughness tested throughout the competition, ensuring that the winners fully represented the perseverance, dedication and determination which are paramount to 1AD’s identity. The competitors were allotted approximately one hour of rest in between each of the demanding physical events, ensuring that they were tested to their personal limits.“The most difficult part for me was the ACFT’s two mile run after the 12 mile ruck. For me, my feet were moving and I was trying to move, but I was hurting at that point,” said Ferrone. “I gave everything that I could, one foot after the other and I did the best that I could.”These challenges allowed for the competitors to focus on their resolve and resiliency, as they fought exhaustion and strained to reach new limits.“Participating in the 1AD BWC has prepared me physically and taught me how to push myself,” said Paraschos. “With all of the physical events all in one day, the obstacle course, the 12-mile ruck and the ACFT, doing those side by side showed me how far I could go.”Participation in the BWC offers a chance for Soldiers across the division to prove to themselves and their peers the results of the countless hours of work and study that they have put in to become the best Soldiers that they can be.“Competitions such as the BWC inspire Soldiers and leaders to do their absolute best, as well as to learn from each other and mentor others,” said Denny. “Standing out from the pack is difficult to achieve, which is why Staff Sgt. Ferrone and Spc. Paraschos should be applauded for their successes. Truly great NCOs and Soldiers rarely enjoy the spotlight for their achievements, but it is vital to morale and esprit de corps to recognize talent, ambition and greatness when it is found.”Winning the BWC has also provided ample opportunities for the winners to demonstrate leadership qualities to their peers and fellow Soldiers as they continue to train and exercise.“I think winning the NCO of the year greatly impacts my Soldiers, as now they see me working out every day and exercising them for physical training as well,” said Ferrone. “For my squad physical training, we’re working out with equipment, doing lots of ruck marches and bodyweight exercises.”As Paraschos and Ferrone continue to train to excel as the 1AD Soldier of the Year and NCO of the Year, they recognize that they set examples for their peers and Soldiers to follow. As the Soldier and NCO of the Year, Paraschos and Ferrone have significant opportunities and responsibilities as leaders representing 1AD.“With the title of Soldier and NCO of the Year, there comes the expectation that they represent themselves at the highest caliber to their peers, subordinates, and senior leaders, representing the Soldier's Creed, Creed of the Noncommissioned Officer, Army Values and the 1st Armored Division standards,” said Denny. “With that responsibility comes great opportunity to prove themselves as leaders and set the example for the future of our Army.”The III Corps Best Warrior Competition was held June 22-25. For information about the competition, check out the Fort Hood website.