After five days of grueling contests, the 2011 Soldier of the Year and NCO of the Year awards were presented to Pfc. Thomas M. Hauser and Sgt. Guy M. Mellor, respectively, during the Sergeant Major of the Army’s Best Warrior Competition Awards Luncheon at the 2011 AUSA Annual Meeting and Exposition.
Hauser is from Fort Drum, N.Y. and assigned to the 563rd MP Company, 91st Military Police Battalion, 16th MP Brigade. Mellor is from the Utah Army National Guard.
The Best Warrior Competition took place from Oct. 3-7 at Fort Lee, Va., and included 26 soldiers.
"This competition brings together soldiers and noncommissioned officers from around the army and around the world, to test their mettle and knowledge," said Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III during the luncheon. "And they are a true representation of our 1.1 million soldiers of our Army."
The luncheon included a video on this year’s competition, with various interviews with the 26 competitors. Hauser and Mellor were presented with a slew of gifts ranging from cash donations to medallions to gift certificates for a GLOCK pistol.
Mellor told the National Guard Bureau news he was a little surprised when his name was called as the NCO of the Year because of the quality of the competition.
"It feels like I’ve truly accomplished something because anybody who came to this competition put in a lot of work and effort to be here," he said.
Hauser’s journey began when his platoon sergeant noticed his willingness to volunteer no matter the task and his desire to always give 110 percent. His platoon sergeant brought him into his office and told him about the division competition at Fort Drum.
"He told me I needed to grab this big Army study guide book and start reading and start doing PT a little bit more," Hauser told the National Guard Bureau news. "I ended up winning the competition, and from then on out I’ve been training."
Hauser and Mellor developed training plans every step of the way to prepare, focusing on physical fitness, basic military knowledge and core warrior tasks and battle drills.
"It requires a lot of goal setting, a lot of time, a lot of preparation and a lot of determination and dedication to keep moving and keep pushing yourself to the end," Mellor said.
Fellow soldiers and NCOs helped both competitors as they prepared with training, experience and motivation.
"A soldier or NCO doesn’t become the Soldier of the Year or NCO of the Year alone," Hauser said. "They become the Soldier and NCO of the Year through training and a lot of hard work, but you can’t accomplish that training alone."
The competitions provide a valuable opportunity to gain experience to sharpen skills and become a better soldier, Mellor said.
Mellor is a traditional National Guard member who took a semester off from his college civil engineering studies to focus solely on preparing for the Department of the Army-level competition after he was named the Army National Guard’s NCO of the Year in August.
As a specialist in 2009, Mellor was named the Army National Guard’s Soldier of the Year and competed in that year’s Best Warrior Competition.
"That’s what Soldier of the Year and NCO of the Year is all about," Mellor said, "bettering yourself and becoming a better soldier so you can go back and help your soldiers."
Chandler described competition itself as key to the Army.
"Aspiring to be the best is something that we say we want to have in our army," he said. "That is really what it is about: it’s about competing, it’s about being victorious, it’s about saying ‘no one is more professional than I.’"
Chandler presented the awards to the soldiers with Vice Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli.
"This is the event I look forward to every single year," Chiarelli said. "You are what this profession is all about."
He added, "You should feel immensely proud of your service."