FORT HOOD, Texas — The Army’s top priority is its people, and advising the brave men and women who don the uniform in defense of the citizens of the United States is crucial. As career counselors, noncommissioned officers are entrusted with guiding Soldiers in their lives and careers, and the best-of-the-best are recognized each year for their dedication.Career counselors from the 13th Expeditionary Sustainment Command and 1st Medical Brigade participated in the Career Counselor of the Year competition Oct. 15-16.This year, the participants competed based on their last Army physical fitness test, a written exam and a traditional question and answer board.Dallas, Texas native, Staff Sgt. Oscar Lopez, a career counselor from the 627th Hospital Center, Ft. Carson, Colorado, has been a counselor for two years and enjoys helping Soldiers.“It’s very satisfying to be able to combine a Soldier’s wants and needs with what the Army needs,” Lopez said.As a career counselor, it’s important for Lopez to know a Soldier before helping them.“I found out about the Soldier is first,” Lopez explained. “Then I speak with them on how they can meet there goals in and out of the Army.”Competitions like these can often be stressful and demanding, but are beneficial as well.“These help us learn about ourselves and how we can better help our Soldiers and our field,” Lopez said.Another competitor, Staff Sgt. Jasmina Hughson, 61st Quartermaster Battalion, has been a career counselor for a year and a half and believes in her job as a career counselor in order to take care of the Army’s number one priority.“I always like helping Soldiers,” Hughson said. “They are important to me. Without our Soldiers we do not have a ready Army, and they will always be my priority.”Puerto Rico native, Sgt. 1st Class Josue Morales, the 61st Multifunctional Medical Battalion, has been a counselor for the past five years, and won last year’s CCOY competition for the 13th ESC.Although he was unable to participate in the III Corps CCOY competition, Morales looked forward to coming back this year.“I just want to compete,” Morales said. “I want to prove my knowledge.”The competition was close heading into the board portion, but Morales bested the runner-up, Lopez.From the moment Morales pounded on the door signaling his entrance into the boardroom, to his vast knowledge as a career manager, Morales won the board hands down, and it spelled redemption for him.“I feel outstanding,” Morales said. “The competition was good and I didn’t think I was going to win. I’m going to continue studying to be prepared for the III Corps competition.”Master Sgt. Phillip Jackson, the 1st Med. Bde. Senior career counselor, was happy to represent Morales as he moves on to the III Corps competition.“He’s one of the best career counselors I’ve ever met,” Jackson said. “He’s everything you want from a Soldier, NCO and career counselor.”Morales will now move on to compete in the III Corps CCOY competition next month.