WASHINGTON – The winners of the Army’s 2013 Best Warrior Competition credit their success in the intense challenge to hard work and the support from their command and family.
Sgt. 1st Class Jason Manella of Fremont, Calif., representing the Army Reserve Command, won Noncommissioned Officer of the Year. Spc. Adam Christensen of Las Vegas, representing U.S. Army Pacific Command, was named Soldier of the Year.
“All I am is just a reflection of what I’ve learned from the Soldiers before me,” said Manella, a civil affairs specialist currently serving in Bravo Company, 445th Civil Affairs Battalion, Mountain View, Calif.
Christensen, a military policeman with the 472nd Military Police Company, Fort Wainwright, Alaska, said teamwork and camaraderie come natural to Soldiers and were evident at Best Warrior.
“You see a lot of it when you’re preparing for the competition and, during Best Warrior, you still feel like you’re part of a team despite the fact that you’re competing against each other,” he said.
The Best Warrior Competition brought together 24 (one had to drop out due to illness) of the Army’s finest warriors for three days of challenges at Fort Lee. The events included tests of Army aptitude, a physical fitness test, a board appearance, warrior tasks and battle drills.
Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. John F. Campbell and Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III presented the awards at a reception Friday, at the conclusion of the event.
Spurred by the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Manella joined the Army a decade ago to serve the nation. He spent a year in Afghanistan, and deployed to Iraq twice, each time for a year.
He suffered a traumatic brain injury in 2012 from improvised explosive device blasts in Afghanistan. He said he had cognitive issues, problems with his balance and other issues, but made a full recovery through rehabilitative work.
He said he decided to study for and compete in Best Warrior as part of the recovery process.
“I wasn’t going to let myself stay down,” he said.
Manella said as the NCD of the Year, he hopes to be able to help other Soldiers who have suffered a traumatic brain injury.
“It’s tough; it’s a long road to recovery,” he said. “But you can never give up on yourself, never give up on hope and continue to have faith.”
Christensen, who has been in the Army two years, said setting and achieving goals, and always doing the right thing will get a Soldier far in the Army.
The specialist said he hopes to become a Special Forces Soldier. He said his wife, his father and his entire family inspire him.
“I’m incredibly grateful to have my family fully behind me and to be able to represent not only myself, but my family, my unit and my major commands. It’s an honor,” he said.
Manella and Christensen will represent the Army at official ceremonies and community events throughout the next year.
The second- and third-place NCO winners are, respectively: Staff Sgt. Cory M. Schmidt, assigned to U.S. Army Forces Command, and Staff Sgt. De Gosh Reed, with the U.S. Army Pacific Command.
The second- and third-place Soldier winners are Spc. Mitchell R. Fromm, assigned to U.S. Army Reserve Command; and Spc. Michael Sands, assigned to the Military District of Washington, respectively.
The Soldiers who competed in Best Warrior represented 12 Army commands. They mastered a series of benchmarks and subordinate-command competitions throughout the year to qualify. The competition is open to all active duty, National Guard and Reserve Soldiers.