After a week-long competition in which 16 Soldiers and noncommissioned officers competed for the title of 2013 United States Army Forces Command’s Soldier and Noncommissioned Officer of the Year, the winners were announced at Fort Bragg, July 25.

The 2013 United States FORSCOM NCO of the Year was Sgt. Cory Schmidt, an infantryman with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division and the Soldier of the Year was Spc. Jacob Valderrama, a horizontal construction engineer assigned to 557th Engineer Company, 43rd Sustainment Brigade, 311th Expeditionary Sustainment Command, 1st Theater Sustainment Command out of Camp Arifjan, Kuwait.

Both competed in eight, physically and mentally grueling events which consisted of an Army physical fitness test with additional rope-climb and pull-ups events, warrior tasks and battle drills, urban orienteering and night land navigation. Competitors also had to write an essay on how to improve the Army’s well-being and another on how to prevent sexual harassment and assault. The competition also included a surprise swimming event, combatives event, and a board appearance.

Valderrama, had previously competed in three Soldier-of-the-Year competitions and is motivated to beat the ‘best of the best’ in the next level of competition at Fort Lee, Va.

“My short-term goal is to win the Department of the Army Soldier of the Year Competition and represent my company and FORSCOM with pride and persistence,” Valderrama said.

Valderrama’s sponsor, Sgt. Kurtis Weaver, also a horizontal construction engineer in the same unit said he was confident that his Soldier has a mental advantage on the competition and is capable of winning it all.

“Sometimes I think he’s too smart to be an engineer,” Weaver said. “In my opinion, he’s the best overall Soldier.”

“I want to lead from the front,” Schmidt said. “When I compete in these events, it motivates my Soldiers to do the same and to be leaders themselves.”

Command Sgt. Maj. Chris Greca, the FORSCOM command sergeant major said he was proud of all the competitors and considered them to be a representation of what the Army should instill in its noncommissioned officers and Soldiers.

“These Soldiers here are absolutely heroes in my mind,” said Greca. “They represent everything that is good in today’s Army. You’re the reason why this Army has existed for 238 years and the reason this Army will continue to exist.”

Both Soldiers are scheduled to travel to Fort Lee to compete for the title of Department of Defense Soldier and Noncommissioned Officer of the Year later in the year.