VILSECK, Germany -- Judging by the first round of the 2013 NCO And Soldier of the Year Best Warrior Competition, here, March 18, having fewer competitors didn't make it any easier.

Lying in prone position with a simulated M-16 positioned in their grip, Spc. Shannon Hatcher, a military police officer stationed in Garmisch, and Sgt. David Martin, a chaplain's assistant for U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwoehr's Headquarters and Headquarters Company, attempted to shoot five out of six rounds within a four-centimeter circle. The screen at the Engagement Skills Trainer on Rose Barracks simulated a shooting range complete with sounds from the battlefield.

While Martin breezed through the first round of shots, Hatcher struggled.

"Weapons are tough, everyone has good days and bad days of shooting," said Hatcher.

She redeemed herself in the following rapid-fire round by outshooting Martin.

"I just had to get focused and find my zone," she said.

Hatcher and Martin are the only two Soldiers competing for the Bavaria Military Community Soldier and NCO of the Year, respectively; however, their win was not in the bag, according to 1st Sgt. James Yuras of USAG Grafenwoehr's HHC.

"They have to prove they have talent to succeed, that they have taken the time to study and prepare themselves for what is to come," said Yuras.

And after three grueling days of physical and mental challenges, they did.

For Martin, there was no other choice.

"Professionally, you don't fail, you don't set out to fail, it's not an option," he said. "But it's not just me on display. I represent my unit, so if I do a poor job representing myself, I do a poor job representing my unit."

During the local competition, Martin and Hatcher put their best boots forward as they hiked 12 miles carrying a 35-pound rucksack, endured a grueling Army Physical Fitness Test, dissected an M-16 and laid their abilities on the mat during a combatives match.

While they were physically fit for the challenges, nothing could have prepared them for the mental peril of the final round of competition: the selection board.

Impeccably dressed in their service uniforms, each stood before a selection board consisting of four senior enlisted leaders who drilled them on Army policy and current events.

"When it comes to boards you either know it or you don't," said Martin. "It's important for me to prove that I've prepared for this."

When confronting the board, thinking positive was Hatcher's only weapon.

"I was chosen for this competition for a reason, hopefully for a good reason," she said.

Hatcher proved worthy to enter the next round, representing the BMC for the Installation Management Command Europe's Soldier of the Year in the Best Warrior Competition to be held in Bamberg next month. Martin will join her, vying for NCO of the Year against garrisons across Europe.

For both, challenges lay ahead.

"The competition only gets tougher from here," said Yuras. "The next regional competition represents the best of the best."