FORT LEE, Va. — The Army’s top Soldiers and noncommissioned officers came together to represent the major commands from Training and Doctrine Command to U.S. Army Special Operations Command to compete for the coveted top position of U.S. Army Soldier and Noncommissioned Officer of the Year, Oct. 15 through 19.

Representing Forces Command was Spc. Jeremy Shivick, an infantryman assigned to 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division and Sgt. Darius Krzywonos, a field artillery surveyor assigned to 2nd Battalion, 12th Field Artillery Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division.

For a week, competitors displayed their knowledge, showed off their skills, and demonstrated their ability to be an official spokesperson for the Army.

They began with a written test and an electronic warfare simulator. Over the next three days, before sunrise to well after sunset, they were shuttled from field environments to garrison environments and were challenged physically and mentally.

Their second day began with an Army physical fitness test, which was attended by hundreds of the post’s entry and advanced-level trainees. They shouted wildly, as if cheering for their favorite sports stars, as competitors completed each event.

Unlike the division and corps-level competitions, it wasn’t easy to be able to determine how one Soldier compared to the others, Shivick said. They were all extremely skilled and talented, he explained.

“I felt like I did pretty well,” Shivick said. “I trained for these specific tasks, and I used to think, ‘How am I going to apply what I know with common sense and judgment in a battlefield environment to accomplish the mission?’”

Despite his successes in his career, from earning his Expert Infantryman Badge on his first try, to accelerating to the 82nd Airborne Division’s Soldier of the Year shortly afterward, Shivick remains a quiet and humble young paratrooper. He has attributed most of his successes to his leadership, particularly his squad leader, Staff Sgt. Jason Thomas, who also earned the title of the XVIII Airborne Corps Noncommissioned Officer of the Year.

“They (my leadership) are the cornerstone of why I’m here today as well as the training when I first got to my unit,” Shivick said.

The team, provided by the 7th Sustainment Brigade, was the cornerstone of one of the final events of the competition.

Shivick and the other competitors had to lead a fire team down a street of a fictitious Afghan village in order to pass the lane.

Krzywonos, a towering Soldier who stands more than a foot taller than those around him, is a native of Poland and a Marine Corps veteran of Bosnia and Somolia during the early 1990s. Like Shivick, he is quiet and humble, saying that his personal role is only a small part of the overall Army mission.

“The lesson learned through the Marine Corps is carried with me here over the years, — discipline, the need and desire to carry on despite challenges, discomforts, and heartaches, no matter what,” Krzywonos said.

That discipline and drive was challenged on the third day of the competition when candidates were roused at 4 a.m. to the sounds of firecrackers, artillery simulation rounds, sirens and shouts from the graders that dozens of their comrades were injured outside. The candidates rushed outside to save the lives of their comrades, played by Fort Lee Soldiers who each had simulated life-threatening injuries. In less than 30 minutes, each candidate had to rush to a casualty, provide life-saving treatment, and carry him or her to a casualty collection point.

With little time to recover, they were moved to the ranges to complete stress shoots, IED lanes, and the chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear lane, in which they were required to clear villages with full, mission oriented, protective posture clothing using equipment like gas masks.

“The stress shoot pushed me to the brink physically,” Krzywonos said. “It was a hard event, but it was a well organized course.

“Every day I’m learning something. No matter what level of competition I attend, I’m always impressed with the attitudes,

The culminating event of the competition was the board, whose president was the Sergeant Major of the Army Raymond F. Chandler.

Both Shivick and Krzywonos said they were well-prepared and looked forward to completing the final event, and moving on to find out who won.

Finally, at the end of the week, all competitors were moved to Washington D.C. to participate in the Army Ten-Miler and to attend the Association of the United States Army annual convention, where the winners would be announced.

“This isn’t just about warrior tasks and drills, but the whole warrior concept,” said Chandler at the AUSA luncheon.

Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Lloyd Austin added, “Our best asset is not our tanks or our weapons, but our people. I’ve seen you do the most amazing things, seemingly impossible things, and I have seen you do it routinely,” he said.

Despite the best efforts made by the Forces Command Soldier and Noncommissioned Officer of the Year, Sgt. Saral Shresta representing United States Army Special Operations Command took home the title of Soldier of the Year, while Staff Sgt. Matthew Senna representing United States Army-Europe took home the title of Noncommissioned Officer of the Year.

3rd Special Forces troop wins Soldier of Year

Shrestha, a power generation equipment repairer, is assigned to Group Service Support Co., Group Support Bn., 3rd Special Forces Group, U.S. Army Special Forces Command, Fort Bragg. He has served for three years in the Army and has completed a deployment to Afghanistan. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in computer information science and wants to earn a Master’s Degree in computer engineering and become an Army officer.