Army Names Soldier, NCO of the Year

Army Names Soldier, NCO of the Year

Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Joseph Martin, left, and Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael Grinston, right, stand with the 2019 Soldier of the Year Spc. David Chambers, second from left, and the Noncommissioned Officer of the Year Staff Sgt. Dakota Bowen.
Photo by: Mike Morones for AUSA

The Army announced the winners of the 18th annual Best Warrior Competition during an Oct. 14 luncheon at the Association of the U.S. Army’s Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington, D.C.

The 2019 Soldier of the Year is Spc. David Chambers, representing U.S. Army Forces Command, and the Noncommissioned Officer of the Year is Staff Sgt. Dakota Bowen from U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command.

“You represent what we want in our soldiers: physically fit, dedicated professionals,” said keynote speaker Gen. Joseph Martin, the Army’s vice chief of staff.

Martin called NCOs the heart and soul of the Army. “When the Army desperately needs leadership, we turn to you – and you have never failed us,” he said.

During the six-day competition, which took place the week prior to the Annual Meeting at Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia, 22 soldiers representing 11 commands from across the Army were tested on their knowledge, skills and abilities. Specific events included urban warfare simulations, formal board interviews, physical fitness challenges, written exams and warrior tasks and battle drills relevant to today’s operating environment.

“Even after I retire, I know the Army’s going to be in great hands because of the soldiers that competed in this event,” said Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael Grinston, who oversaw the competition.

During the luncheon, Grinston also named retired Command Sgt. Maj. Kenneth “Rock” Merritt as the fifth Honorary Sergeant Major of the Army.

Merritt, a World War II veteran of D-Day, Operation Market Garden and the Battle of the Bulge, said it was “one of the biggest surprises of my life” when he got the call informing him he had been chosen as the award recipient. 

“It’s unbelievable. Thank you. This is one of the greatest awards I’ve ever received in my entire life,” Merritt said.

The tradition of appointing an honorary sergeant major of the Army each year began in 2016 when retired Gen. Gordon Sullivan, AUSA’s former president and CEO, received the honor.

Three others have been named since: retired Lt. Gen. David Grange Jr., retired Gen. Fredrick Kroesen Jr., and Elaine Rogers.

- Luc Dunn for AUSA