WAIKIKI --The U.S. Army, Pacific (USARPAC) announced the names of the two top Soldiers in the Pacific on Friday June 15th during the 237th Army Birthday Commemoration at Hilton Hawaiian Village in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Staff Sgt. Neal Lang III, Eighth Army (Korea), won the USARPAC Noncommissioned Officer of the Year competition, selected among eight other Pacific unit competitors.

Pfc. Jose Figueroa, 8th Theater Sustainment Command (Hawaii), won the USARPAC Soldier of the Year competition, selected among seven other Pacific unit competitors.

"I've worked very hard and made sacrifices to get where I'm at," said Lang earlier in the competition during a media event, "It would be a great honor to represent USARPAC," he added.

Figueroa offered advice during an earlier media event to Soldiers considering entering the tough competition, "I would tell them to never give up and to train and practice, and it'll pay off one day."

The Warrior Challenge is a USARPAC competition designed to find the best Noncommissioned Officer (NCO) and Soldier in the Pacific. The competition consists of scored events to include a written examination, an appearance in front of a command sergeants major board, M4 carbine qualification, pre-combat inspections, a physical fitness test, day and night land navigation, combatives and a variety of demanding warrior tasks. At the end of the competition, points are tallied and the highest scoring NCO and Soldier are chosen as NCO and Soldier of the Year for USARPAC.

"Soldiers that make it to this level of competition have already won several different competitions before getting here," said Command Sgt. Maj. Nathan Hunt III, 8th Theater Sustainment Command, Command Sergeant Major, "They are all winners and the best trained warriors in their command," he added of the elite competitors.

The two winning Soldiers will move on to a Department of the Army competition held in October to determine the Army-wide NCO and Soldier of the Year winners. USARPAC competition planners looked closely at the Department of the Army contest to best prepare their contenders for the next level of competition.

"At this level, the events have to be designed to find the best out of the best," said Hunt of the rigorous events, "The leaders and planners that put the competition together know how to do just that," he added.

Lang is currently assigned to Charlie Battery 1-38 FAR Camp Casey, South Korea as a Launcher Section Chief. He entered the United States Army National Guard in June of 1996 and attended One Station Unit Training for Cannon Crewmember occupation at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. After completing his first six year enlistment, he was honorably discharged from the National Guard. In January 2006, Lang enlisted into active duty. Lang's short terms goals are to be inducted into the prestigious Sergeant Audie Murphy Club and complete his Associate's Degree. Long term goals are to become the Sergeant Major of the Army and retire from the military with a record of good order and discipline among his trained Soldiers.

"I've learned a lot about myself during this competition," Lang reflected during a media event, "Because I had to mentor Soldiers and they showed me how well I could communicate for all of us to be successful," he added.

Figueroa currently serves as the SAMS-1E Operator for 536th Maintenance Control Section, 524th CSSB, 45th SBDE, 8th TSC, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. He enlisted in the Army, July 2010 and entered basic training at Fort Knox, Kentucky where he held the position of platoon guide and was presented the Army Physical Fitness Patch. He attended Advanced Individual Training at Fort Lee, Virginia where he served as the platoon guide, class leader and graduated as the distinguished honor graduate. His short term goals are to achieve the rank of sergeant and complete his bachelor's degree in information technology. His long term goals are to attain his master's degree and retire after 20 or more years of service as a Chief Warrant Officer.