The Army Reserve's 80th Training Command (Total Army School System) Best Warrior Competition wrapped up at Fort Knox, Ky., Aug. 18.

Nineteen Soldiers from the 80th participated in the competition, which was hosted by the 100th Division (Operational Support).

The 80th Training Command is headquartered in Richmond, Va., and three divisions fall under its command -- the 100th Division (OS), located in Louisville, Ky.; the 94th Training Division located at Fort Lee, Va.; and the 102nd Training Division at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.

The competition took place during one of Kentucky's most humid weeks.

"The most physically demanding events were held earlier in the day before the heat index became unsafe," said Master Sgt. Randy Joseph, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the competition.

The first day of competition began with an Army Physical Fitness Test, followed by timed events at the rappel tower and obstacle course.

At the rappel tower, the competitors tackled a one, two, and three-rope bridge course before rappelling from Thunderbolt Tower.

The competitors then negotiated a conditioning obstacle course which tested their motor skills and physical condition.

Staff Sgt. Stacey Awkard, a mechanic from Dallas assigned to the 94th Division, said her first day of competition was very challenging.

"It really makes you have to dig down deep inside to find the will to keep going," she said. "You have to be very motivated to be in the competition. It's tough with a capital T."

Day two of the competition was spent navigating to nine Warrior Training Task stations. Soldiers made their way through dense forest and across rough terrain to reach the stations, which included first aid for heat injuries, employing a claymore mine, visual signaling techniques and reporting intelligence information, among others.

The third day of testing brought the competitors out of their beds around 2:30 a.m. for a 6.2 mile road march through the hills of Fort Knox's training areas, which included the 200 meter, 13.6 percent graded hill aptly named 'Misery.'

Sgt. 1st Class Jason Johnson from Columbia, S.C., a military police officer with the 102nd Division and a former drill sergeant, said he has probably completed around 100 road marches in his military career.

"This road march was the hardest I've ever done due to the level and grade of the hills," he said. "It was the hardest event...tough realistic training."

Sgt. Elizabeth Giebler, a 100th Division signal instructor from Horizon City, Texas, and a high school math teacher and cheerleading coach, echoed Johnson's sentiments.

"There were times I had to turn around backward and go up those hills so I could use different muscles," she said. "Good thing on the downhill was you could jog and your momentum would take you down."

Individual Weapons Qualification followed the road march.

The competitors also completed a handwritten 1,000 word essay describing their short, medium, and long-term goals for their future military service.

Day 4 brought day and night land navigation courses. The competitors had four hours to locate four points during the day course and two hours to locate two points during the night course. They also had to complete a written 50 question land navigation test.

The competition was very physical, according to Spc. Mandy McCandless of Spring Lake, N.C.

"My body today feels like I went through all nine weeks of basic training in four days," she said, following the day land navigation course.

Joseph said he saw tears and fear during the competition.

"But the will to achieve and not give up was instilled in all the competitors," he said.

A personal appearance board closed out the competition with Soldiers appearing before a panel of command sergeants major. They were asked questions on topics ranging from chain of command to military customs and courtesy, Army programs, first aid and CPR, to awards and decorations and current events.

The winners of the competition were announced at an awards dinner.

Earning the title of NCO of the Year was 33-year-old Staff Sgt. Martin Rodriquez of Pueblo, Colo., who's a military police officer in the 102nd Division and a youth counselor at a youth services center.

Rodriquez said he was surprised when his name was announced as the NCO of the Year.

"I was nervous because I faltered yesterday on the (land navigation course)," he said.

He placed first overall in the road march, however, which he said was the most grueling of his career, with a time of 1 hour and 17 minutes. He also obtained a maximum score on the Army Physical Fitness Test, tied for the highest score in the area of land navigation, and surpassed the other competitors in the personal appearance board score.

The Soldier of the Year title went to 19-year-old Pfc. Joshua Cole, assigned to 100th Division Headquarters in Louisville. Cole, an information technology specialist, lives in Salem, Ind.
Cole said his goal was to complete Army Airborne training later this year and Combatives Levels 1 and 2 training in February.

"If I win at the USARC level, I hope to also go to Ranger school," he said.

Runners-up in the competition were Staff Sgt. Christopher Anderson, a supply instructor from Lunenburg, Mass., assigned to the 100th Division, and Spc. Junior Victor, a finance technician from Palm Garden, Fla., assigned to the 94th Division.