FORT SILL, Oklahoma (Aug. 20, 2020) -- Enduring 100-degree temperatures throughout the week, five NCOs and five Soldiers strove for excellence in the Fires Center of Excellence and Fort Sill Best Warrior competition Aug. 10-14.The competitors were pushed to their limits on about a dozen events ranging from the Army Combat Fitness Test to land navigation to rifle qualifications to a 12-mile foot march, and ending with an appearance before a virtual board of senior NCOs.In the end, two warriors from the 434th Field Artillery took top honors: Drill Sergeant (Sgt. 1st Class) Benhur Rodriguez, Headquarters and Headquarters Service Battery, 1st Battalion, 19th FA; and Sgt. Alton Whipple, 95th Adjutant General Battalion (Reception). [Whipple was a specialist when won his brigade’s Best Warrior competition.]“I’m excited. It shows all my effort, my willingness, and my drive is paying off,” said Rodriguez, who was the 2019 Fort Sill Drill Sergeant of the Year. “It took focus and not getting complacent. And, I’ve always done well in physical events.”Whipple said he felt great about winning.“It took a whole lot of training, studying for the board, and having mental discipline, and pushing through, especially during the last two miles of the ruck march,” said Whipple, a personnel specialist.CompetitorsAlso competing were NCOs, Staff Sgt. Adrian Alvarez, 30th Air Defense Artillery Brigade; Staff Sgt. Matthew Rever, 428th Field Artillery Brigade; and Sgt. Raymond Rivera-Roman, Fort Sill Medical Department Activity (MEDDAC). The junior enlisted competitors were, Cpl. Aaron Iverson, MEDDAC; Spc. Bryce Blades, 75th Field Artillery Brigade; Spc. Diana Mandujano-Poblano, MEDDAC; Pfc. Garrett Key, 30th ADA Brigade; and Pvt. Lee Knox, 75th FAB.During the ceremony, Maj. Gen. Kenneth Kamper, FCoE and Fort Sill commanding general, and Command Sgt. Maj. Steve Burnley, FCoE/Fort Sill CSM, presented all the warriors with certificates of achievement.Kamper also gave them his coin of excellence on the condition that if they ever stopped pursuing excellence to return their coin to him.Rodriguez and Whipple also received Army Commendation medals, trophies, and duffel bags.Mandujano-Poblano said she competed in Best Warrior to challenge herself, “and show my peers at the Sgt. Bleak Troop Medical Clinic that even though our main mission is to provide care to basic trainees, we as Soldiers can make time to contribute to our personal Army careers.”She said she found the stress shoot to be the most challenging event.“I was very tired from the ruck march,” she said. “It made me realize how physical toughness is important to real-life situations (i.e., combat).”The ruck march was the easiest “even though the last two miles felt never-ending. What made it easier was the support from my NCOs and battles (battle-buddies) along the way,” she said.Rivera-Roman said he found the ruck march to be the most challenging event. “The physical strength needed to complete it definitely requires some train-up.”He said the easiest event for him was the land navigation Aug. 11, at the Rabbit Hill training area. Despite not bringing a watch, or his own map which was recommended, he said he almost found all five points.“I’m always outside hiking, so I just used terrain association,” he said.Rivera-Roman said the virtual board was surprising because he was not asked about regulations, but instead he had to respond to situations.There were questions like: Would you feel comfortable talking about suicide, diversity, or sexual assault/harassment with your Soldiers?“I’m behavioral health, so a lot of those issues are what we address,” he said.Rivera-Roman said he definitely recommends the competition to his peers.“I get it that we look at it as it’s painful, it’s a hassle, but if you don’t step out of your comfort zone, how are you going to grow?”Rodriguez and Whipple will move on to the Training and Doctrine Command virtual Best Warrior board competition next week.