Best Warriors Revealed at AUSA Meeting
Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli and Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth O. Preston present the 2009 Department of the Army Soldier of the Year Award to Spc. Clancey Henderson and the Noncommissioned Officer of the Year Award to Sgt. 1st Class Aaron Beckman at the Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., Oct. 5. Photo by Mike Strasser

FORT LEE, Va. (Oct. 8, 2009) – With 2009 being “The Year of the Noncommissioned Officer,” it was only fitting the winner of NCO of the Year in the Department of the Army Best Warrior Competition has spent most of his military career as a mentor to Soldiers.

Sgt. 1st Class Aaron Beckman, a former drill sergeant currently serving as a senior small group leader at the 7th Army NCO Academy in Grafenwoehr, Germany, was named NCO of the Year Oct. 5 at the Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington, D.C.

The Soldier of the Year, Spc. Clancey Henderson, is an intelligence analyst with the 193rd Brigade Support Battalion at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.

These Soldiers joined 22 others in the annual DA Best Warrior Competition held at Fort Lee, Sept. 28-Oct. 2.

Beckman, who hails from Venango, Neb., is a combat engineer and leads a platoon of four staff sergeants and 48 sergeants in four squads. He said that training others to be the best motivates him to be the best. Beckman said winning Best Warrior will allow him to become even more of a mentor to other Soldiers.

“Being Best Warrior means that my duties will increase, because I have to portray and project the Army to younger Soldiers,” said Beckman.

Competing for Soldier of the Year, Henderson had to beat seven others from FORSCOM units to reach the DA level. Almost immediately, the 21-year-old Longmont, Colo., native began preparing … for the board appearance, combatives, weapons training, land navigation and the Army Physical Fitness Test.

During the Best Warrior APFT, Henderson lapped competitors, waved to the cheering crowds and finished with the best two-mile time. Henderson credits great NCO support for his success.

“(Winning Best Warrior) means I have some of the best NCOs in the Army. By that, I mean that they dedicated the time and resources to training me to the Army’s standard and beyond,” said Henderson.

Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth O. Preston said it was unique that so many military occupational specialties were represented in this year’s competition. Out of the 24 competitors, 19 different specialties – ranging from infantry to chaplain’s assistant – were represented.

“It is pretty remarkable to see this breadth of experience in all these Soldiers,” said Preston. “The NCOs and Soldiers I observed this week are nothing short of inspiring,” Preston said. “I am very, very proud of all of them and they are all winners.”

During the awards ceremony, Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli said all 24 Soldiers competing this year are a good reflection of today’s Army.

“The 24 men and women we honor here today are the best of the best,” said Chiarelli. “It is especially meaningful to present these awards at such a pivotal time. Our Army and our nation are at war and we have been at war for eight years. This is the longest war we’ve fought with an all-volunteer force and I think that distinction speaks volumes about the individuals serving in our Army today. Most of these NCOs and Soldiers we honor today came in the Army after 9/11; many have deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan … they’ve answered our nation’s call in a time of war, and recognized the hardship and sacrifice that would be asked of them and their Families. Their courage and sense of duty is truly remarkable.”

Preston announced at the end of the luncheon that the awards presented to the NCO and Soldier of the Year will now be known as the Sgt. Maj. of the Army Jack L. Tilley Award. In 2002, Tilley implemented the NCO and Soldier of the Year Competition, which was held at Fort A.P. Hill in its inaugural year. Tilley’s personal goal was to implement a competition to recognize Soldiers above the Army command level, and vowed that it would only get better every year.

The competition, which has been held at Fort Lee the past seven years, became known as Best Warrior in 2006.

The event has evolved to incorporate warriors tasks and battle drills and the latest technology relevant to today’s operating environment.