Schofield Barracks, Hawaii " Six Non Commissioned Officers and five Soldiers representing the major U.S. Army Pacific commands gathered on Oahu this week to compete for the 2011 title of USARPAC’s NCO and Soldier of the Year June 6-10.

Months of intense physical and mental training are required to prepare for the competition that pits top Soldiers from across the Pacific to battle it out for the top honors. Most units and Soldiers started preparing for the competition six months ago. Each of USARPAC’s Major Support Command and Theater Enabling Command in Hawaii, Alaska and Japan conducted their own internal competition to select their best NCO and Soldier to compete in the culminating event, the annual USARPAC Warrior Challenge in Hawaii.

“The importance of the Warrior Challenge is so that USARPAC can select an NCO and Soldier of the Year to represent this Command at the Headquarters Army level competition,” said Sgt. Maj. Steven Hatton, who is leading this year’s competition for USARPAC.

Each participant can earn a maximum of 500 points throughout the competition. “Once all the events are completed the scores are tabulated and the NCO and Soldier with the most points win,” explained Hatton.

NCOs’ and Soldiers have to deal with a number of grueling physical and mental events. The competition kicked-off with pre-combat inspections and media interviews, followed by the sergeant major’s board where Soldiers’ skills are evaluated by their peers.

Throughout the week, Soldiers complete an arduous series of challenges, including Warrior Task Testing, combatives, physical fitness test, night urban orienteering, combatives, M4 carbine qualification and day land navigation.

“We try to make the Warrior Challenge resemble the HQDA (Headquarters Department of the Army) competition so the competitors will know what to expect at the DA level,” said Hatton.

When asked how it would feel to be the selected as the USARPAC NCO of the Year, Sgt. 1st Class Brandon Cruz from the 3rd Battalion, 196th Infantry Brigade said, “To be the USARPAC NCO of the Year would be an absolute honor and a privilege to represent USARPAC at the Army level.”

The winners of this year’s competition will be announced June 10, at the USARPAC Army Birthday Commemoration at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort and Spa in Honolulu, where more than 1,000 Soldiers, including top Army and civilian officials will be on hand to witness the honors and congratulate USARPAC’s top Soldier and NCO.