WASHINGTON (Oct. 11, 2011) -- A National Guard Paladin gunner from Utah took the Noncommissioned Officer of the Year title and a military policeman from the 10th Mountain Division won Soldier of the Year after a grueling week of competition.

The two winners were announced during the 10th Annual Best Warrior Awards Luncheon Monday at the Association of the United States Army annual meeting and symposium.

"Regardless of the final tally, each and every one of you is a winner," Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III said. "You should be proud of your efforts and accomplishments."

The NCO of the Year is Sgt. Guy Mellor, representing the National Guard and 1st Battalion, 145th Field Artillery, Utah National Guard. The Soldier of the Year is Spc. Thomas Hauser, representing Forces Command and the 563rd Military Police Company, 10th Mountain Division.

It was the second time in three years -- and for only the second time ever that a National Guard member has been named the Army's NCO of the Year.

Mellor and Hauser competed against 24 fellow NCOs and Soldiers from 11 different commands, testing their skills and knowledge against Army standards and each other during the week-long Department of the Army Best Warrior Competition.

Mellor said he was a little surprised when his name was called as the NCO of the Year because of the quality of the competition.

"It feels like I've truly accomplished something because anybody who came to this competition put a lot of work and effort to be here," he said.

The contest, held at Fort Lee, Va., pushed the Soldiers physically and mentally with events ranging from an Army Physical Fitness Test, a written exam on general military topics, weapons qualification and a three-day field exercise where the competitors were tested on warrior tasks and battle drills.

"Each one of you represents the best of our Soldiers and what you and your units have done to get here is nothing short of magnificent," Chandler said.

All of the competitors had to win multiple competitions and become the best for their command to reach the DA competition.

Hauser's journey began when his platoon sergeant noticed his willingness to volunteer no matter the task and his desire to always give 110 percent. His platoon sergeant brought him into his office and told him about the division competition at Fort Drum, N.Y.

"He told me I needed to grab this big Army study guide book and start reading and start doing PT a little bit more," Hauser said. "I ended up winning the competition, and from then on out I've been training."

Hauser and Mellor developed training plans every step of the way to prepare focusing on physical fitness, basic military knowledge and core warrior tasks and battle drills.

"It requires a lot of goal setting, a lot of time, a lot of preparation and a lot of determination and dedication to keep moving and keep pushing yourself to the end," Mellor said.

Fellow Soldiers and NCOs helped both competitors as they prepared with training, experience and motivation.

"A Soldier or NCO doesn't become the Soldier of the Year or NCO of the Year alone," Hauser said. "They become the Soldier and NCO of the year through training and a lot of hard work, but you can't accomplish that training alone."

The competitions provide a valuable opportunity to gain experience to sharpen skills and become a better Soldier, Mellor said.

"All the experience I have gained through the preparation and execution has made me a better Soldier and NCO," he continued. "It has helped me understand more of the Army, and of course that's shaped me to be a better leader.

Mellor is a traditional Guard member who took a semester off from his college civil engineering studies to focus solely on preparing for the Department of the Army-level competition after he was named the Army National Guard's NCO of the Year in August.

As a specialist in 2009, Mellor was named the Army National Guard's Soldier of the Year and competed in that year's Best Warrior Competition.

"That's what Soldier of the Year and NCO of the Year is all about," Mellor said, "bettering yourself and becoming a better Soldier so you can go back and help your Soldiers."

(Staff Sgt. Jim Greenhill of the National Guard Bureau contributed to this report.)