By Ms. Diana M Dawa (G-1)August 7, 2007
FORT BELVOIR, Va. -- "There can only be one," were the words from Army Materiel Command's Command Sgt. Maj. Daniel K. Elder before the announcement of the Noncommissioned Officer and Soldier of the Year during a July 20th ceremony held at the Officers Club here.
Staff Sgt. Jorge R. Toro, Army Sustainment Command, Rock Island, Ill., was named the Noncommissioned Officer of the Year, and Spc. Samuel Yoo, 389th Army Band, "AMC's Own," Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., was named Soldier of the Year.
The two competed against five other NCOs and Soldiers over four days of warrior tasks held July 16-19 at Fort A.P. Hill, Va. The competition, dubbed the "Best Warrior," began with an early morning wake-up as Soldiers participated in an Army Physical Fitness Test of push-ups, sit-ups and a two-mile run.
From there, the competitors faced a board of assembled AMC command sergeants major who questioned candidates on topics ranging from current events to leadership attributes.
On the next day, candidates conducted weapons qualification, reflexive fire, and performed warrior tasks under a hot sun and temperatures climbing into the 90s. Soldiers rotated from firing points to task stations that challenged them on functions such as operating field radios, map reading, weapons handling and range card procedures.
Competitors also prepared to find three points inside training area 23 alpha - a rugged and hilly land navigation course filled with swamp, brush and obstacles that proved to be a challenge for Toro.
"It was a very tough course with pretty much no terrain association. It was pretty hard compared to other land navigation courses."
On the third day, competitors hopped on a Blackhawk helicopter for a ride to the assault landing to prepare for an insertion exercise near "Objective Bravo," the Military Operations in Urban Terrain site. Soldiers headed for the tree line after exiting the helicopter.
From there, it was roughly a mile hike to the site. Multiple scenarios bombarded the Soldiers upon entering the mock village, including mock media interviews with TV news journalists, casualties on the battlefield, suspicious characters and suspected weapons caches. In short - a chaotic scene. Yoo said he felt confident coming into the competition.
"I received my certification in Combative Level 1, at the same time, during the last week of BNCOC (Basic Noncommissioned Officer Course). I received hands-on training with the crew-served weapons and reflexive fire and familiarized myself. It stuck with me. Now, I am not intimidated when I encounter those kinds of things. It boosted my confidence level."
On the last day, a 100-question written test was the final obstacle standing between the candidates and the winners announcement. During the awards ceremony, Gen. Benjamin S. Griffin, AMC commanding general, noted the challenges the competitors faced over the past week.
"I know this is a tough competition you have gone through. There is nothing more important we do at AMC than this competition and recognizing you," said Griffin.
Toro offered advice to potential competitors.
"Prepare, especially for the land navigation course, because it is tough with a lot of thick woods. Brush up on everything. Make sure you can do it, see yourself doing it, when you can see that, you're prepared."
The winners will go on to compete in the Army's 6th annual NCO and Soldier of the Year "Best Warrior" competition Oct. 1-5 at Fort Lee, Va.