WASHINGTON — Following last year’s virtual contest, 24 Soldiers of the Army’s top Soldiers and noncommissioned officers from 12 Army commands will compete in person for the 2021 Best Warrior Competition.
With the competition underway next week, so are COVID-19 mitigation efforts, said Sgt. Maj. Donald Ferguson, the event coordinator, adding that all competitors and judges are fully vaccinated.
“With it being virtual last year, once Soldiers competed at their major commands there was no coming together to one location and pitting them against each other to see who the best in the Army was,” he said Wednesday.
After they arrive to Fort Knox, Kentucky, on Thursday, Soldiers will be tested and reconfirm their COVID-19 vaccination, he added.
The first of two phases will be at Fort Knox, followed by the second phase held in the National Capital Region on Oct. 7, where they will be retested for the virus. The Army’s top Soldier and NCO will then be named on Oct. 11 at the Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting and Exposition.
In the competition, Soldiers will be evaluated on their technical and tactical skills, including land navigation, marksmanship, weapons skills, an assault course, and appear before a board of sergeants major.
“We’re still working through some activities,” Ferguson said. “Regarding COVID-19, we want to make sure we can do as much as we can while maintaining the competitors’ health, and the health of those around them.”
On-site competition “is more exciting for candidates," he said, because the events allow the competitors, who may be of different backgrounds and military occupations, to meet each other face-to-face.
The biggest thing Ferguson looks forward to will be all of the Soldiers being together, he said, which is a change from last year.
In that competition, Sgt. James Akinola, who was stationed at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, but represented U.S. Army Futures Command in Austin, Texas; and Sgt. 1st Class Alexander Berger, assigned to 2nd Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) at Fort Carson, Colorado, took home the top honors.
Besides bragging rights, this year’s winners may offer a glimpse into the future leaders of the Army in the decades to come, Ferguson said.
The winners will be able to take what they've learned, he added, and share knowledge of the event and how to prepare for it, so their subordinates can compete in the following years.