Nine Soldiers and noncommissioned officers from throughout Third Army's area of responsibility took time from sustaining the fight to shape the future by competing in a multitude of events geared at testing their proficiency in basic warrior skills, marksmanship, physical fitness and endurance in the annual Soldier/NCO of the year competition at Camp Buehring, Kuwait June 15-18.

"Due to what is going on right now with [Third Army current operations], we are bringing the competition to the Soldiers," said Sgt. Maj. Michael Williams, operations sergeant major and noncommissioned officer in charge of the competition. According to Williams, the competition is geared to evaluate Soldiers performing their basic warrior tasks used during deployment.

Staff Sgt. Michael Harms, Area Support Group - Kuwait; Staff Sgt. Jared Meier, 1st Theater Sustainment Command; Sgt. Lauren Kohler, 3rd Medical Deployment Support Command; Sgt. Seth Reavley, 335th Signal Command; Sgt. Siedah Rivera, ASG- K; Spc. Shaun Lawson, 335th SC; Spc. Stephen Levins, 1st TSC; Spc. Devon Woodard, 3rd MDSC; and Pfc. Anthony Gunter, Special Troops Battalion, Third Army, have all proved their mettle at battalion level competition and were ready to face the challenges awaiting them at Camp Buerhing.

Each Soldier ran through the gauntlet of challenges starting with a 4 a.m. Army Physical Fitness Test and then given just enough time to recover and gear up and head out to the range.
At the range, each Soldier had to qualify on an M-16A2 rifle even though some now use the newer M-4 carbine when they are with their units.

"We wanted the competition to be fair to all Soldiers," said Williams. "Since some Soldiers were not able to transport their own weapons, and others were using M-4's, we issued them M-16's so the competitors would be on an even footing."

Day two began even earlier. At 2 a.m. competitors started with a course on urban land orienteering followed by a mock patrol through the Urban Training Village testing Soldiers on their ability to use basic warrior skills in real life situations.

"This competition is looking for the total Soldier," said Sgt. 1st Class Jerome Hayes, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, Area Support Group - Kuwait and Staff Sgt. Michael Harms' sponsor. "[The winner] has to be motivated and has to motivate others because the competition isn't just about one person, it's is about the team concept."

Finally, each Soldier stood before a board of five command sergeants major and were drilled on regulations, weapon information and finance services. The board ended with a recital of the Soldier's Creed, while their sponsors anxiously waited outside.

With all the events complete and scores tallied, only two competitors could represent Third Army in the next level of competition at the Force Command level which will be held later this year. This year's winners were Staff Sgt. Meier for the NCO of the year and Spc. Levins for the Soldier of the year.

"We have come a long way," said Meier about himself and his Soldier, Levins. "Winning is an awesome feeling. We have put our heart and many hours of work to get to where we are and we have yet to reach our full potential."