FORT LEE, Va., (Army News Service, Oct. 22, 2010) -- In its ninth year, the U.S. Army Best Warrior Competition, held at Fort Lee, Va., Oct. 17-22 has evolved into an ultimate test of Soldiery.

From hand-to-hand combat, urban orienteering, detainee operations, and evaluating casualties, to weapons familiarization and night firing, the 24 competitors in this year's competition have worked hard for a shot at earning the title of Soldier or Noncommissioned Officer of the Year.

"I want to show with this competition that you don't have to be a Special Forces Soldier, an armored crewman or infantry Soldier to be successful. It's basic, fundamental Soldier skills, that all of us, regardless of our occupational specialty, should be competent at," said Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth O. Preston during a luncheon with the competitors Thursday.

Preston, who oversees the event, explained that the competition brings visibility to the Army and showcases some of its top Soldiers.

"You have 24 competitors here who are from 24 small towns and communities across America. We want to reach out to all those communities and show them who we are as Soldiers and what our roles and responsibilities are," Preston said. "Internally, it also sends a message across the force that these critical skills are very important to the Army."

The competitors, two each from the Army's 12 major commands, had to win several preceding competitions to be considered for Best Warrior.

Sgt. Sherri Gallagher of the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit, representing the U.S. Training and Doctrine Command at Best Warrior, won four lower-level competitions to compete for Soldier of the Year.

Although she's a vehicle operator by trade, Gallagher's aim has brought her success in both the military and the professional shooting world. One of the top long-range shooters in the country, Gallagher fired her first weapon at 5 years old.

"My goal is to make the Olympic team," Gallagher explained, although long-range shooting is not yet an Olympic sport.

Gallagher spent her childhood summers touring shooting competitions with her parents, both competitive shooters, and now participates in the World Championships every four years.

Gallagher was nominated for Soldier of the Quarter at her unit for winning a rifle competition, and is now capitalizing on all of her skills as a Soldier to compete against her highly-qualified peers at Best Warrior.

"It's an honor," Gallagher said. "It's a lot of fun to be out here, because I don't get to do this on a daily basis. It's neat to be able to see how you compare to everyone else."

The Fort Benning Soldier said that although she had to go through a lot of preparation for Best Warrior, it has brought her more confidence as a leader, and knowledge to pass on to younger Soldiers one day.

"I'm doing the best I can, and that's all I can really ask for," Gallagher explained. "There isn't anything that I think I could have done any better."

Another participant, Spc. Justin Hinton, a satellite communications specialist with 75th Ranger Regiment representing U.S. Army Special Operations Command, also began his bid as a Best Warrior competitor by winning a Soldier of the Quarter board. But even as a Ranger, Hinton explained, there were events in the competition he needed to brush up on in order to be prepared.

"There were definitely things I wasn't as familiar with," Hinton said of the multiple events.

Hinton said he felt most comfortable with the combatives and weapons qualification events, but thought the urban house clearing operations were the most exciting.

"There's always been great Soldiers in the Regiment and U.S. Army Special Operations Command, so it's an honor to be here to represent them," he said.

A high-tech aspect of the competition included GoPro wearable video cameras -- worn by several of the competitor's sponsoring noncommissioned officers to ensure safety and to provide digital documentation of how the competition can be improved in the future.

Live video footage was fed to an operations center where competition staff could keep an eye on the Soldiers as they completed each event. Next year, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the competition, 1st Sgt. LaDerek Green of the Combined Arms Support Command, explained that each competitor will have their own camera.

"The competition has grown throughout the years. And as we transition from Iraq to Afghanistan and how we fight as an Army, this competition reflects that change," Green said.

He also explained that competitions like Best Warrior benefit the Army as a whole by providing more highly-trained leaders.

"At the end of the day, the things they learn here they can take back and train their units in order to develop more effective Soldiers in combat, and ultimately save lives," said Green.

Best Warrior winners will be announced during a luncheon hosted by the sergeant major of the Army Oct. 25 at the Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. Soldiers selected as winners will then represent the Army at key events throughout the year.

For more information about Best Warrior, please check out this site.
Best Warrior Competition