The Army Materiel Command's Staff Sgt. Andrew Gregory begins the task of changing a tire of a Humvee during a Recovery Operations task Nov. 20. Gregory was one of 24 contestants in the 2013 Best Warrior Competition.

FORT LEE, Va. (Nov. 21, 2013) --The 12th annual Department of the Army Noncommissioned Officer and Soldier of the Year Best Warrior Competition hit its competitive full stride Wednesday as contestants grappled with the field skills event at the McLaney Drop Zone here.

Twenty-three contestants – 12 NCOs and 11 junior enlisted Soldiers – representing commands Army-wide are competing in a variety of events that together defines the Army’s premier Soldier skills competition (one competitor had to drop out due to an illness). It began early Wednesday morning with a physical training test and concludes Friday with a board competition.

At press time, the warrior contestants were working their way through a bevy of field events called the Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills. Recognized as the core portion of Best Warrior, it challenges Soldiers to demonstrate competencies needed to survive in field environments such as weapons marksmanship and medical first aid.

Sgt. 1st Class Randall Reed, the Best Warrior Operations NCO in charge, said earlier in the week Soldiers had no prior inkling of which WTBD events were planned or how they were structured.

“This is the first year in which the competitors will have no knowledge of the events or any of the timelines,” he said.

He added this year’s competition was shortened from five to three days but is faster-paced, more intense and fraught with surprises and challenges.

“The events are more challenging than they’ve ever been,” said Reed. “This is the first year they will be travelling by foot the entire time. It will be challenging both mentally and physically.”

That’s fine as far as Sgt. Bryan Teneyck is concerned. The IMCOM NCO entrant said the challenge is what makes Best Warrior an attractive offering.

“I’m glad to be here,” he said earlier in the week. “It’s a good opportunity to test yourself against your peers and you’re always learning. You learn so much as you go along.”

Competitive aspects aside, Best Warrior offers a unique training experience, said IMCOM’s Spc. Jesse Kane.

“It’s about being able to better myself as a Soldier and as a potential leader,” said the 23-year-old military policeman and Palmyra, Pa. “Especially with the Sergeant Major of the Army sitting on the board – being able to be mentored by him and being in his presence for an extended period of time – there is no better leadership experience than that.”

Best Warrior has its roots at Fort Benning, Ga., when Soldiers competed in what was primarily a board competition. It has evolved over the years encompassing the skills required for survival on the battlefield. The name ‘Best Warrior” officially became part of the name in 2008 to distinguish it from other events such as Best Ranger and Best Sapper. It has been held at Fort Lee since 2003.