WASHINGTON – Former Army specialist, now Sgt. Justin J. Earnhart assigned to the 470th Military Intelligence Brigade was named the U.S. Army Soldier of the Year Oct. 11 during the Association of the United States Army’s annual meeting for placing as the top Soldier while competing in the U.S. Army’s Best Warrior Competition 2021.
Gen. James C. McConville, the U.S. Army Chief of Staff, and Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael A. Grinston further recognized Earnhart during day two of AUSA by promoting Earnhart on the spot.
“The Soldier of the Year competed against hundreds of thousands of Soldiers in the Army, and he (Earnhart) won,” said McConville. “He is the best Soldier we have, and winning does matter in the Army, so Sgt. Maj. (Grinston), I think he’s ready to be a non-commissioned officer.”
At that time, Sgt. Maj. Grinston and the Chief of Staff of the Army pinned the enlisted rank of sergeant onto Earnhart’s uniform and promoted him to an NCO on the spot.
“‘Humbled,’ has been a word that has stuck with me the last few months,” said Earnhart. “I just feel incredibly humbled to be named the best Soldier. It still hasn’t resonated with me yet, but again, I’m just incredibly thankful for the people that worked alongside me to help me prepare for the best warrior competition, and I’m more than happy and thankful to have been given this opportunity.”
Earnhart is a U.S. Army military intelligence professional assigned to the 312th Military Intelligence Battalion, Charlie Detachment, at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, where his unit conducts real-world intelligence missions in Latin America.
“I was actually born in the states, in San Diego, California, but I grew up in Peru where my family were missionaries there in Tacna. I spent about 15 years there … to me that is home,” said Earnhart. “And serving under U.S. Army South has allowed me to meet several of the officers from Peru; it’s a great conversation starter of common ground.”
Coming from a background with several family members serving in the military, Earnhart joined the Army to continue his family’s legacy and because he felt he was fit to serve.
“I wouldn’t send somebody else to do something that I can do, so I decided to join the military and serve my country,” said Earnhart.
To prepare for the Best Warrior Competition, Earnhart gives credit to his command team, especially his first sergeant and first-line NCO supervisors.
“We assisted in helping him put together his physical training plan and two of his NCOs were the primaries behind his training, but it was him (Earnhart). If he wasn’t willing to accept the leadership, accept the tasking, it wouldn’t have happened. This kid, he’s going places,” said Sgt. 1st Class John P. Kuehn, the senior enlisted advisor of Charlie Detachment, 312th Military Intelligence Battalion. “And even with all the training he did, he still volunteered to do missions here so he can keep up his MOS. The kid really is something special.”
The Best Warrior Competition encompasses what it is to be a Soldier; everything from taking the Army Combat Fitness Test to conducting warrior tasks and battle drills and ends with a sergeants major board.