210210-A-LS252-061.jpegStaff Sgt. Josiah Bartz, Fort Jackson's 2021 Noncommissioned Officer of the Year, throws a training grenade as part of the Best Warrior Competition, Feb. 10. (Photo byJosephine Carlson)

By Josie Carlson                                                                                                                                                                                                  Fort Jackson Public Affairs

This past week, 18 Soldiers from all across the installation came together for three days to see who would win Fort Jackson’s Drill Sergeant of the Year, Noncommissioned Officer of the Year and Soldier of the Year. They competed in many events including the Army Combat Fitness Test, an obstacle course, and a 12-mile ruck, just to name a few.

Fort Jackson Commander Brig. Gen. Milford H. “Beags” Beagle Jr. congratulated all the competitors for participating in a grueling contest not every Soldier would volunteer for.

“Congratulations to all of you, going through the paces and the trials and tribulations or any kind of board or any of those things, my hat’s off to you,” he said. “Not everyone is going to put their hat in the ring and do it, but all of you did and made it to this point.”

Day One started with the ACFT and swimming 300 meters in full uniform, followed by 10 minutes of treading of water. Competitors then executed a series of obstacle courses that included hands-on testing, for example operating the M4 carbine. Later in the day they zeroed their weapons on a target and then shot a qualification table. In between these events they moved on foot, walking roughly 10 miles.

After completing the first day competitors spent the night on a land navigation course and conducted night into day land navigation starting on day two. Competitors had to find five points within three hours. They then completed a star land navigation course and completed additional hands-on tests including hand and arm signals, a spot report, and donning their field protective mask. NCOs and Soldiers were required to conduct a physical readiness session, while drill sergeants pitched a module from Set 6 (Forming, aligning, and dismissing a squad). They then moved to hand grenade qualifications with medical training lanes.

Finally on Day Three all the competitors completed a 12-mile ruck march with at least 35 pounds and then finished the day at a leadership board in either their Army Service Uniform or Army Green Service Uniform.

Even if they didn’t win, some competitors faced not only the best Soldiers from around post, but their fears as well.

Staff Sgt. Joshua Mouzzon, representing 4th Battalion, 39th Infantry Regiment for NCO of the Year, said the swimming event was his favorite of the competition.

“That has been one of my biggest fears, swimming,” Mouzzon said. “(I’m) not a good swimmer but I was able to persevere through that event. I didn't quit, and I was able to finish the event. That was a personal milestone in my life … I know its a little thing, swimming, but it was pretty big for me because I don’t swim.”

Sgt. 1st Class Tessa Smith, who sponsored Staff Sgt. Cameron Moore from 3rd Battalion, 34th Infantry Regiment, said these competitions support the Army’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiative.

“I love competitions like this because it highlights the Army's initiative of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion because males, females, everyone's competing everyone's giving their all till the end…I love it,” Smith said.

Following the competition Post Command Sgt. Maj. Philson Tavernier encouraged the group saying competing against other drill sergeants, NCOs and Soldiers makes them better and told them the event was an opportunity to test themselves.

“Regardless if you came in first, second or third place, the fact that you’re here competing speaks volumes of who you are,” he said.

The winners and runners up in each category are:

Drill Sergeant of the Year:

Staff Sgt. Armani Brown, 1st Battalion, 34th Infantry Regiment

Runner up:

Staff Sgt. Joshua Stoner, 1st Battalion, 61st Infantry Regiment

NCO of the Year:

Staff Sgt. Josiah Bartz, 2nd Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment

Runner up:

Sgt. Brett Nielsen, Headquarters, Headquarters Battalion

Soldier of the Year:

Spc. Noah Sladek, 2nd Battalion, 39th Infantry Regiment

Runner up:

Spc. Francesca Meza, 120th Adjutant General Battalion

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                                                         Staff Sgt. Armani Brown Fort Jackson's Drill Sgt. of the Year

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                                                                       Spc. Noah Sladek, Fort Jackson's Soldier of the Year