FORT LEE, Va. -- As a child, it was dance lessons, singing auditions and theater recitals.
As a teenager, it was the performing arts high school and summer camps with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

When she became an adult, she strayed from an entertainment career path, strapped on a pair of combat boots and embraced the life of a Soldier.

"From the time I was very young, I always felt like I had a purpose ... something that I had to do in this life," said Sgt. Jamiell Goforth, "...and that really fell into place when I decided to enlist into the military in 2004."

Goforth, a 23-year-old would-be entertainer, is one of 26 Soldiers competing in the annual U.S. Army Noncommissioned Officer/Soldier of the Year "Best Warrior" Competition at Fort Lee, Va. Oct. 1 - 5.

The competition features the Army's best Warriors in a five-day competition designed to showcase Soldier skills and Army training.

Goforth is a Fort Hood, Texas, healthcare specialist who is representing the U.S. Army Forces Command in the competition. She has deployed in support of Hurricane Katrina relief efforts, earned the expert field medical badge and spent a tour in Iraq. She said that she would take those experiences over the glam and glitter world of the entertainment business any day.

"I excelled (at singing, dancing, etc.)," the Seattle native said, "but I wasn't happy. What made me happy was being out there helping people and serving my country."

Goforth's decision to join the Army, especially at a time when the nation was at war, was something close to a shock to her parents, who groomed her to be a performing artist.

"My parents were very nervous when I told them I was joining the military," she recalled. "There wasn't a lot of discussion....All I knew is that I wanted to help people and help people in a capacity that was larger than myself, to be part of something bigger."

Her parents eventually supported her decision, and Goforth has gone on to relish her life as a Soldier, arguably, the biggest role of her life.

"I never would have thought that I would enjoy being a Soldier as much as I do," she said. "I knew I wanted to help and serve my country, but I never thought I would love it this much. It's neat to find your niche in the world, and I really feel like the Army is home for me. It's like a second family."

Goforth isn't certain that she will make the Army a career but has plans to take advantage of all the opportunities it affords her.

"I just re-enlisted for six more (years)," she said, "so I'm well on my way."