FORT LEE, Va. - Private First Class George Smith, of Brooksville, competed against 23 soldiers from around the world to be named the U.S. Army's top soldier.
in the U.S. Army's Best Warrior Competition this week in Fort Lee, Va.
The U.S. Army's Best Warrior Competition, a week-long event in Fort Lee, Va., will name one Soldier of the Year and one Noncommissioned Officer of the Year this evening.
Smith, a Unit Supply Specialist assigned to D Company, Third Military Information Support Battalion (Airborne) in Fort Bragg, N.C., joined fellow soldiers in rigorous tests this week.
Those tests are designed to challenge a soldier's Army skills, qualities, and abilities in every aspect, according to Tiffancy McCall, spokeswoman for the event.
"Leading up to this, there are various levels you start from," Smith said. "Ground zero is the company board, and when your chain of command feels you're ready you go to the Soldier of the Month board."
Smith then advanced to the Soldier of the Quarter board, and competed against winners from the previous year, he said.
"From there you normally go straight to subordinate command . and then the main command level," he said.
Contenders took the Army's physical fitness test consisting of push-ups, sit-ups and a two mile-run, as well as a written examination on general military topics and a graded essay on an assigned topic.
Those topics include firing M-4 rifles for qualification, negotiating strenuous land navigation courses, demonstrating a number of critical combat tasks and drills, as well as soldier response to a mystery event.
Army Sgt. Maj. Ray Chandler, who is overseeing the event, will chair the selection boards, which are made up of six senior command sergeants major from across the Army.
The boards will evaluate each competitor's appearance, military bearing, and knowledge in a number of key areas.
Smith began training months ago for the event.
"They evaluated us from every movement," he said. "They directed us out to the field. This is our third day on the field, and we just finished our warrior tasks and battle drills today, which was the mystery event."
The mystery, Smith said, involved everything from unannounced, mentally challenging tasks like carrying a 40-pound drum barrel across beams without allowing it to touch the ground, to more physically strenuous tasks.
"Yesterday we were in full kit, which is full body armor and Kevlar helmets, and we did a movement I think roughly 18 to 20 miles," Smith said, adding that it lasted from 4 a.m. to about 5:30 p.m. "Constant simulated explosions, taking care of simulated injured soldiers, replicated battlefield conditions - a stress filled environment to see how soldiers react."
Competition winners receive prestigious honors and awards from organizations and businesses in recognition of their achievement. They also travel the country to represent the Army at special events throughout the next year.
Smith, who was the runner-up at the U.S. Army Special Operations Command Best Warrior Competition, said his friends and family in Brooksville, and those he's encountered along his career, have given him strength.
"Brooksville is a good town," he said. "I would like to say thank you to all my family and friends. Without them I wouldn't be where I am. And every soldier here deserves a lot of respect. Every solder in the Army - the sacrifices we do everyday, even as small as not being able to come home when you want - I think deserves a lot of respect."
To see a live Internet feed this evening of the winners being announced, go to http://www.dvidshub.net/webcast/3538