Army Announces 1st Best Squad Competition Winner

Army Announces 1st Best Squad Competition Winner

Soldiers representing the U.S. Army Special Operations Command accept the trophy for Best Squad during the Sergeant Major of the Army’s Recognition Luncheon at AUSA 2022 Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., Monday, Oct. 10, 2022. (Jeromie Stephens for AUSA)
Photo by: Jeromie Stephens for AUSA

The winners of the Army’s inaugural Best Squad Competition and the service’s NCO and Soldier of the Year were announced Oct. 10 during a luncheon at the Association of the U.S. Army’s Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington, D.C.

The Best Squad is from Army Special Operations Command. Its members are Spc. Coy Anderson, Spc. Nathan Wallen, Spc. Jake Reichman, Staff Sgt. Devon Simpson and Sgt. Jonathan Warren.

The 2022 Soldier of the Year is Spc. Samual Alvarez of Army Forces Command, and the NCO of the Year is Sgt. Garrett Paulson from Army Medical Command.

“Being exceptional is not a state at which you arrive. It is a condition that requires commitment and constant attention—and all of our best squads sitting here today know this,” said Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Randy George, the event’s keynote speaker.

The Best Squad Competition, announced earlier this year and overseen by Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael Grinston, took place Sept. 29–Oct. 7 at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and Washington, D.C. Each of the 12 squads, made up of five soldiers, represented major commands across the Army.

The competition featured fitness and combat-related events ranging from the Army Combat Fitness Test and weapons lanes, to a strenuous 12-mile foot march and detailed individual warrior tasks and squad battle drills.

“The reason our Army is great is because of the American soldier,” George said. “You all have proven yourselves exceptional soldiers and team players, and we are all extremely proud of you.” 

Honorary SMA

Grinston also announced that Ted Hacker, founder and president of the American Freedom Foundation, is this year’s Honorary Sergeant Major of the Army.

Hacker founded the American Freedom Foundation in 2004 with retired Sgt. Maj. of the Army Jack Tilley. The nonprofit organization supports veterans, service members and their families through hiring events, dealing with issues during the transition to civilian life and much more.

“Thank you for years and years of taking care of our soldiers and their families,” Grinston said.

Over the past 18 years, the American Freedom Foundation and its sponsors have raised more than $1.5 million, connected thousands of veterans with employers and awarded scholarships to spouses and family members, Hacker said.

Being named an Honorary Sergeant Major of the Army “reinforces my commitment … [and] the passion and belief I have for helping veterans and families,” Hacker said. “Thank you for this wonderful recognition. … I am truly humbled and honored.”

This tradition of naming an Honorary Sergeant Major of the Army began in 2016 when retired Gen. Gordon Sullivan, a past president and CEO of AUSA, received the honor.

Past honorees include legendary Army Ranger retired Lt. Gen. David Grange Jr.; former Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Frederick Kroesen; Elaine Rogers, CEO of USO-Metro; retired Command Sgt. Maj. Kenneth “Rock” Merritt, a World War II veteran of D-Day, Operation Market Garden and the Battle of the Bulge; retired Gen. Carl Vuono, a former Army chief of staff; and actor Denzel Washington.

— Luc Dunn