The journey can be long and difficult; long nights spent studying and memorizing materials, brushing up on old skills that have gone unused and pushing your body to its physical limit. Finally, you stand in front of several people with more rank than you; answering their questions with assurance, all for the honor of a title: Soldier of the Year.

This year, the title went to Spc. Michael Malloy, an infantry team leader with Company B, 1st Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team.

Malloy competed in multiple events over three days to earn the title. The competition started with an Army Physical Fitness Test. Next, he had to qualify with his assigned weapon. Then he traversed the hilly Fort Drum terrain on a land navigation course. Finally, he attended a general knowledge board where he was bombarded with questions about basic Soldier skills.

But this is the end of the journey; to compete for Soldier of the Year, one must win competitions at the Soldier of the month and quarter levels.

"My squad leader was the first to send me to a board," Malloy said. "I was nervous for the first three boards, but I was more confident on my last one."

Soldiers with diverse jobs from across Fort Drum competed against Malloy.

"The competition was kept fair," he said. "Everything was a skill level one task, so anyone could win regardless of their job. The tasks were good exercise. ... We don't get a lot of time to go out and do these types of things, so it's nice to keep those skills sharp."

Skill level one is a term used for basic soldiering tasks, meaning all Soldiers should be proficient in it.

Staff Sgt. Larry Hall, sniper section squad leader of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1-87 Infantry, encouraged Malloy to go to the Soldier of the month board when he was Malloy's squad leader.

"When Malloy first got to the unit as a private, he was very adept at learning," Hall said. "To help him keep learning, I kept telling him I was going to send him to the monthly boards and I would have him study with other Soldiers (who) were attending the boards.

"He is a very intelligent and motivated Soldier; that is why he is a team leader now," he added. "He would set aside extra time after work and on the weekends to study for the competitions. He has everything that is needed to become a future leader."

"He takes initiative all the time," said Sgt. Kristian Bravo, Malloy's current squad leader. "I never have to ask what his guys are doing; they are always doing PT or studying or training. He is definitely going to have my job very soon."

On top of everything else, Malloy soon will deploy to Afghanistan with the rest of 1st BCT.
"It was nice to practice land navigation again before going overseas," Malloy said. "I'll be attending the board again next time."

"If he stays in the Army, he could go very far," Bravo said. "He has a lot of potential."