WASHINGTON, D.C. (Dec. 20, 2012) -- Sergeant Major of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III presented Coins of Excellence to 18 Fort Lee and Fort Eustis Soldiers and civilians during a Dec. 12 ceremony at the Pentagon.

The honorees all supported the 2012 Department of the Army Best Warrior Competition that took place here Oct. 14-19. Twenty-four Soldiers representing 12 major commands competed for the titles of U.S. Army Noncommissioned Officer and Soldier of the Year. The support staff organized, conducted and graded a wide range of events that tested the candidates both mentally and physically.

Maj. Gen. Larry D. Wyche, CASCOM and Fort Lee commanding general, recognized all of the Best Warrior organizers and supporters during a Post Theater ceremony in early November. Those participating in the subsequent Pentagon event were selected by Command Sgt. Maj. James K. Sims, CASCOM and Fort Lee CSM.

"The dedication, selflessness and achievements that these amazing Soldiers and civilians have accomplished are second to none," Sims said. "I wanted to bring them to the Pentagon for a once in a lifetime opportunity for special recognition. Having SMA Chandler take the time to present these award at the Pentagon … most Soldiers or civilians never get that sort of opportunity in their career."

Scott Moeller, the designer of this year's BWC logo and coin, was among those recognized. "Being asked to join the supporting-role awardees at the Pentagon was just surreal," he said. "From the moment you drive up and set eyes on the building, you can feel the impact of this great nation. To walk the halls was truly an unforgettable experience."

Pfc. Veronica Ramirez, who served as a fire support team member for the competition, also participated in the visit. She was the youngest Soldier in the group.

"I was humbled by the selection for this recognition ceremony," she said. "Receiving a coin from the Sergeant Major of the Army and a tour of the Pentagon was a great experience and it gives me a new outlook on my military career."

Best Warrior concluded with an Oct. 22 awards luncheon in Washington, D.C., where Staff Sgt. Matthew Senna, an infantryman who was representing U.S. Army Europe at the competition, was named NCO of the Year, and Sgt. Saral Shrestha, a power generation equipment repairer representing Special Forces Command, was named Soldier of the Year.