After four days of running, rucking and testing, a specialist from U.S. Army Pacific and a sergeant first class from 10th Special Forces Group have come out on top at the Army's 2014 Best Warrior Competition.
Spc. Thomas Boyd, of the 500th Military Intelligence Brigade at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, was named the 2014 Soldier of the Year.
This year's Noncommissioned Officer of the Year is Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Carpenter, a Special Forces engineer sergeant with 15 years of service.
"It's a great honor," Boyd said about winning the grueling competition. "Competing against some of the most professional soldiers in the Army, they definitely didn't make it easy."
This year's Best Warrior Competition took place Monday through Thursday at Fort Lee, Virginia. Twenty-eight soldiers representing 14 commands across the Army competed this year.
Described as the Super Bowl of Army competitions, Best Warrior tests soldiers on everything from urban warfare simulations and board interviews, to physical fitness and warrior tasks and battle drills.
Competitors also went before a selection board made up of six senior sergeants major from across the Army. The board, chaired by Sergeant Major of the Army Raymond Chandler, evaluates competitor appearance, military bearing and knowledge of critical Army topics.
For the competitors, the journey to the Best Warrior competition began at least six months ago. Each soldier selected for the Army-level event had already competed in various events throughout the year at the command to which they're assigned.
Here's a closer look at this year's winners, who will be recognized for their achievements and represent the Army at special events throughout their 2014-2015 tenure.
Soldier of the Year
Boyd, 28, joined the Army in 2011 and serves as a cryptologic linguist with Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 500th Military Brigade in Hawaii.
Already armed with a bachelor's degree in political science and history and a master's in war studies, Boyd said he joined the Army to gain real-world intelligence experience and serve his country.
"I don't think you can join the Army without wanting to do that," he said. "The Army's been a great experience."
Boyd said his squad leader recommended he compete in the Best Warrior competition.
"I was brand new to the unit, I didn't have much actual experience, so it was a great way to test myself," he said.
Boyd competed at the brigade-level competition in April before earning his way to the all-Army event.
"It was very intense physically, emotionally," Boyd said.
The competition also required him to perform complex tasks that "require thinking clearly when you're completely exhausted," he said.
"It required a lot of mental strength to get through it," Boyd said.
Throughout the four-day competition, Boyd said he felt he was doing pretty well, but he was surprised when he was named the winner.
"It's a great accomplishment, but at the same time I'm aware of all the soldiers who couldn't compete because they were deployed, or they were working on missions that they couldn't get released from because their work is too important," he said. "It's great to win this, but there are other soldiers who could do better."
NCO of the Year
Carpenter, an engineer sergeant assigned to 10th Special Forces Group at Fort Carson, Colorado, has served in the Army for 15 years.
He was chosen to represent his unit and won three competitions before earning his spot at the Army-level Best Warrior competition, he said.
"As the competitions progress, each one gets tougher and tougher, so you have to be your best in order to beat the best," he said.
To prepare for each event, Carpenter ramped up his physical training. He also practiced shooting, land navigation and the Army's warrior tasks.
"It's a very encompassing competition that covered all aspects of the Army," he said.
Throughout the four days' events, Carpenter said he didn't know how he was doing or how he stacked up against the other NCOs. He didn't expect to win, Carpenter said.
"I'd done three competitions before this one, and now the final one is over, and to realize you won is overwhelming," he said.
Carpenter said he's happy to have represented 10th Group.
"To represent my unit as well as I have was pretty amazing," he said. "I know a lot of members of my unit are deployed downrange, so I'm glad I was able to represent them very well."