FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — Maneuver Support Center of Excellence senior leaders announced the winners of the 2022 Best Warrior Competition during a ceremony April 4 in Lincoln Hall Auditorium.
This year’s winners included 1st Lt. Daniel Nyachwaya, Company C, 3rd Battalion, 10th Infantry Regiment, Officer of the Year; Staff Sgt. Krista Osborne, Company B, 2nd Battalion, 10th Infantry Regiment, Drill Sergeant of the Year; Staff Sgt. Shomone Hemphill, Company D, 31st Engineer Battalion, NCO of the Year; Spc. Eric Dowler, 399th Army Band, Soldier of the Year; Air Force Tech. Sgt. Chance Sheek, 368th Training Squadron, Joint Service NCO of the Year; and Cpl. Marcus Destine, Combat Engineer Skills Division, 35th Engineer Battalion, Joint Service Junior Enlisted of the Year.
MSCoE and Fort Leonard Wood Command Sgt. Maj. Randolph Delapena thanked the competitors, their families and the cadre who helped put the event together.
“I will tell you that these competitors went through some grueling competition,” he said.
The competition began with 20 competitors, Delapena added, and everyone finished.
“One of the things I told them was, ‘Don’t quit. When your mind tells you to quit, don’t do it,’” he said. “I know, at some point, your mind was telling you, ‘I’m done, I can walk away from this,’ but none of you did and I appreciate you — that’s the warrior spirit.”
The service members were tested on their physical endurance and mental acuity as they competed over four days in events such as a physical fitness assessment, a rifle stress shoot, day and night land navigation, soldiering skills lanes, an unknown distance foot march and written exams.
For the 368th TRS, this year marks two consecutive Joint Service NCO of the Year wins — Air Force Tech. Sgt. Darren Ruth won the 2021 competition. Sheek also competed in 2020.
“When I first went through, I learned all the mistakes and passed them on to last year’s winner,” Sheek said.
Ultimately, though, Sheek said it takes preparation and unit support to win.
“They gave me the time, letting me get off the podium to focus on those skills I don’t necessarily get as an Airman,” he said.
For Sheek the hardest part was the land navigation course, but he said he had a lot of fun competing in the stress shoot portion.
“Moving and shooting — that was the first time I’ve ever done that,” he said. “Air Force qualification is a little bit different, but I was on cloud nine — I was just running and gunning. It was fun.”
Osborne, who has been a drill sergeant here for about a year, said the whole reason she wanted to compete was to show that size doesn’t matter as much as determination.
“I’m only 5’4” and 125 pounds — I wanted to show and prove that if you put in the work, and if you believe in yourself, you can do it,” she said.
Becoming MSCoE Drill Sergeant of the Year usually involves finding time to prepare while also working long hours, and it was no different for Osborne.
“Working 12 to 15 hours a day, I had to find time and it was hard,” she said. “Just going through the training, I learned a lot, and a lot about myself.”
Osborne credited her fiancé — Staff Sgt. Franchesca Beltejar, who was competing in the NCO of the Year category — for helping her get through it.
“She was my rock through the whole thing,” Osborne said. “She pushed me through it.”
Beltejar said that although she didn’t win her category, she enjoyed the whole thing — and she enjoyed preparing alongside Osborne.
“We definitely helped each other out,” Beltejar said. “It helps to train with someone else, so you can see where your shortcomings are and hopefully get better.”
Delapena stressed the importance of service members, “pushing themselves and their subordinates” to participate in competitions like this.
“Get out there and do it,” he said. “It’ll make you a better person. I’ve been through them, and anybody who has gone through these competitions will tell you, you walk out a better person.”
The winners were each presented an Army Commendation Medal.
Photos from throughout the competition are available on the Fort Leonard Wood Flickr page.