After a four-day event that tested the mental and physical strength of eight Fort Rucker Soldiers, two competitors rose to the top in the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence ‘Best Warrior’ competition Aug. 2-5.This year’s USAACE Best Warrior Non-Commissioned Officer of the Year is Staff Sgt. Zachary M. Doerr, who serves as an Air Traffic Control instructor at C Co., 1-13th Aviation Regiment, 1st Aviation Brigade.The USAACE Best Warrior Soldier of the Year is Spc. Kemuel Miranda, who serves as a medical lab technician at Lyster Army Health Clinic.Command Sgt. Maj. Brian N. Hauke, Aviation branch command sergeant major, congratulated the competitors during a ceremony at the U.S. Army Aviation Museum Aug. 5.“On behalf of Maj. Gen. Francis, Chief Warrant Officer 5 Koziol, and myself, thank you for your courage during this competition, let alone the courage to get out of bed every morning and defend our nation and its freedoms we all enjoy,” Hauke said.Hauke explained courage enables a person to encounter danger and difficulties with firmness or without fear or fainting of heart.“I believe I’m reasonably safe in saying that each competitor at some point over the course of the competition had to dig deep and find the courage necessary to get through one of these events, if not multiple events.“They had the courage to confront the uncertainty that lay ahead. At the very minimum each competitor had the courage to compete, and I commend all of you for that. The courage to stand out, set themselves apart from their peers, and the courage to say ‘I can do that’,” Hauke said.The competition had a reduced number of events this year due to COVID-19. Events included the Army Combat Fitness Test, formal board proceedings conducted virtually with a panel of sergeants major, a written exam testing Army knowledge, rifle marksmanship qualification, and 12-mile road march. For the culminating event, the competitors headed into the woods for a timed day and night land navigation event.The winners were each presented the Army Commendation Medal for meritorious achievement and selection as the USAACE NCO and Soldier of the Year for 2020, a USAACE command team coin, a wooden flag, and a trophy on behalf of the USAACE Command Sergeant Major, and other items from sponsoring organizations.Both winners said the biggest challenge was the ruck march.“The final mile and a half, all my muscles were cramping up and I’m pretty sure I stopped sweating. I was like, you know what, you got to keep on driving through it and I made it to the end,” Doerr said.With six years in the Army, Doerr currently serves in an Air Traffic Control equipment training section where he teaches the implementation, setup and control of a mobile ground approach radar system known as the Air Traffic Navigation Integration and Coordination System.“I find instructing very rewarding just because you get a group of Soldiers that come in very fresh and they don’t know anything about that portion of training the equipment or controlling. A few days later whenever they test out of your portion they are very knowledgeable on it, and just seeing that development is very rewarding,” Doerr said.Doerr said he was surprised that he won in the NCO category.“I’m very honored to be able to represent Fort Rucker at the TRADOC level board, and I’m glad that I did as well as I did. I’m proud,” he said.For Miranda, the last few miles of the ruck march pushed him to the limit.“It went to the point of past exhaustion, past pain until I couldn’t feel anything else,” Miranda said. “Once you turn around the last time you know you have three more miles to go and everything is just hurting, you’re just trying to finish as fast as you can. It was worth it.”The competition gave Miranda a chance to meet Aviation Soldiers.“Being in the clinic it’s hard to meet all the aviation people, all the other Soldiers and personnel that work with aviation. It was really nice to meet them,” he said.The winners will now move on to compete in the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command level competition.