FORT LEE, Va. – The Combined Arms Support Command recognized the winners of its annual Best Warrior/Drill Sergeant of the Year Competition at a July 15 ceremony on Fort Lee’s Seay Field.
Staff Sgt. Koku Adzoble and Spc. Charles Leong, representing the Quartermaster School, captured the Noncommissioned Officer and Soldier of the Year titles, respectively. Sgt. 1st Class Aaron Gellos, representing the Soldier Support Institute, claimed the DSOY hardware. The three were personally congratulated by Maj. Gen. Rodney D. Fogg, CASCOM and Fort Lee commanding general. The ceremony was livestreamed on the command’s Facebook page.
Fogg spoke favorably about all 12 participants who entered the three-day competition, saying they embarked upon a journey of self-improvement; sacrificing much in pursuit of bettering their knowledge, skills and abilities against peers.
“Whether you win or not, you still won,” he reminded the troops. “The desire for winning matters … and just preparing and competing makes you better. You’re going to be a better Pfc., a better specialist or a better sergeant. We’re proud of you.”
Best Warrior is a Soldier skills competition for junior troops and mid-level NCOs, testing competencies from a total Soldier perspective. Events this year included weapons qualification, a 12-mile road march, the Army Combat Fitness Test, a land navigation course, a board appearance, and an essay and general knowledge exam.
Adzoble, a native of Togo, West Africa, said he took on the challenge of Best Warrior to improve his abilities as a Soldier.
“I wanted to do something that would better myself as well as serve as an example for those who may follow me later” said the Golf Company, 244th QM Battalion Soldier.
He credited his unit leaders for motivating him and showing confidence in his potential to compete. “I had leaders who pushed me,” Adzoble said. “That was the best part of this. I had a lot of leaders who wanted me to do the best for myself, the unit and the Army.”
The 92-Alpha automated logistical specialist wore an intense game face throughout the BWC events. He broke his performance down to four main factors.
“Personally, I think my physical fitness, my confidence and knowledge, and my experience combined to help me win this competition,” said the 12-year Soldier.
Leong, a 24-year-old who also serves as a 92-Alpha, said he “had no clue” what he was getting into when he began his Best Warrior journey, but he was pushed confidently forward by the positive support he received from the 244th QM Bn. and 23rd QM Brigade staffs.
“With their support, it led me to where I’m at today,” said the Alpha Company, 244th QM Soldier.
Gellos, a French horn player who was assigned to Fort Lee’s 392nd Army Band earlier in the decade, is a drill sergeant with the Army School of Music at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story in Virginia Beach. It’s the first time a musician has claimed victory in either Best Warrior or its predecessor, Ultimate Warrior.
“I’m overwhelmed right now, especially since me and another drill sergeant were kind of competing neck and neck.” said the 34-year-old following the awards presentation.
His estimate of being in a close competitive race could not be confirmed as CASCOM does release contestant scores or present awards for second place.
A native of Pensacola, Fla., Gellos said it was gratifying to compete, considering it was his intent to do so last year but those plans were derailed due to the birth of his third son.
“I continued to show interest and here I am with the title,” he said. “I know they had to cut back on a couple of things, but it was still a tough competition that was made even more difficult by the heat.”
Temperatures topped 90 degrees on all three days of the competition. The number of events were scaled back due to COVID-19. The previous installments of the CASCOM Soldier showcase featured more tactical tasks and at least four full days of competition. None of that seemed to matter, though, as much as the opportunity to shine a spotlight on the Soldiering profession.
Gellos said he recognizes that purpose and pointed out he did not win on his own.
“I’m very appreciative of the support I received from my unit, my command and my schoolhouse,” he said. “This is a team win.”
Gellos, Adzoble and Leong all received Army Commendation Medals and gifts from the Sergeants Major Association and Sergeant Audie Murphy Club for their efforts.
The three Soldiers – having won at several stages to reach the CASCOM event – are now headed to the Training and Doctrine Command level of competition. They will not, however, travel outside of Fort Lee like in previous years. Both events will be virtual, consisting of a board presentation and a knowledge exam.
TRADOC Best Warrior is set for July 25-27, and its DSOY competition will take place Aug. 3-5.