Best Warrior
Soldier of the Year, Sgt. Sherri Gallagher of the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit, second from left, and Noncommissioned Officer of the Year Staff, Sgt. Christopher McDougall, a military policeman stationed in Stuttgart, Germany, second from right, receive their awards from Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth O. Preston, right, and Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, vice chief of staff of the Army Oct. 25.

WASHINGTON – For the first time since the inception of the Best Warrior Competition nine years ago, a female Soldier has claimed the title of U.S. Army Soldier of the Year.

Sgt. Sherri Gallagher of the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit, who represented Training and Doctrine Command at Best Warrior, beat out 11 other competitors from the Army’s major commands. Gallagher, who is currently stationed at Fort Benning, Ga., is one of the top long-range rifle shooters in the country.

The title of Noncommissioned Officer of the Year went to Staff Sgt. Christopher McDougall, a military policeman now stationed in Stuttgart, Germany, who represented the National Capital Region in the competition.

Best Warrior, which was held at Fort Lee Oct. 17-22, is backed by Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth O. Preston, and is a multi-faceted test of soldiering. Events in this year’s competition included hand-to-hand combat, urban orienteering, detainee operations, casualty evaluation, weapons familiarization and night firing.

"It’s an honor," Gallagher said during an interview at the competition. "It’s a lot of fun to be out here because I don’t get to do this on a daily basis. It’s neat to be able to see how you compare to everyone else."

Gallagher fired her first weapon at 5 years old. She spent her childhood summers touring shooting competitions with her parents, both competitive shooters, and now participates in the world championships every four years.

"My goal is to make the Olympic team," Gallagher said, although long-range shooting is not yet an Olympic sport.

McDougall said he doesn’t think winning Best Warrior was an individual accomplishment because it’s an entire team effort that helps the warriors prepare for the competition.

"This competition puts you among a select few individuals who have put in time, effort and energy physically and mentally to get to this level," he said. "No one had an easy time to get here. It’s a once in a lifetime honor."

Competitions are extremely important in the Army, said McDougall.

"Competitions bring out the best in Soldiers," he said. "It’s one thing to do a warrior task or battle drill, it’s another to do it better than the Soldier next to you.

The competition’s winners were announced at the 2010 Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., Oct. 25 by the sergeant major of the Army and Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, vice chief of staff of the Army.

"There are company, troop, battery commanders and first sergeants out there who would literally give up body parts for the 24 warriors you see here – they are really that good," Preston said before naming the winners.

Chiarelli echoed Preston’s sentiments.

"This is my favorite event of the AUSA conference, and that’s because it celebrates the most important part of our Army: our people," Chiarelli said. "I couldn’t be more proud."