Soldiers from around the country came together to compete in the U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (Airborne)’s Best Warrior Competition recently. Each competitor was put to the test, both mentally and physically, to see who would represent the command at the U.S. Army Reserve Command’s competition, later this month.

Out of 15 competitors, two prevailed — Sgt. 1st Class Jason Manella representing the 351st Civil Affairs Command, won the Noncommissioned Officer of the Year and Spc. Zachary Sharpe, representing 352nd Civil Affairs Command, won Soldier of the Year.

Both Manella and Sharpe admitted to countless hours of studying Army regulations, field manuals, Army history and current events to prepare for the competition. They also worked hard on their physical fitness, rucking miles on end, working out and working on their stamina. Both overcame physical and mental challenges preparing for the Best Warrior Competition and when it was time, Manella said he was ready to be tested.

“I just got back from Afghanistan last September where I got injured by an IED (improvised explosive device) and I was in the TBI (traumatic brain injury) clinic for a while,” explained Manella. “I had to work hard to keep my brain stimulated, working on memory and concentration issues. I got tired of playing games like Simon Says and all this other stuff.

“I used to compete in the Best Warrior Competition as an E-4, so one day I just decided to pick up the study guide and just started studying and training. Once I got home, I talked with my sergeant major and got involved with this year’s competition,” Manella said.

Each competitor was tested on physical fitness with an Army fitness test, rucking 10 kilometers with a 35-pound ruck, Army combatives, Soldier tasks, land navigation (both day and night), marksmanship, written exams and answering questions during a sergeants major board.

As Army Reserve Soldiers, Manella and Sharpe had to juggle time between their civilian careers, school and battle assemblies preparing for Best Warrior.

“During downtime at work, I’d study ARs, FMs, and Army history in preparation for the board and written exam,” explained Sharpe, an emergency medical technician for Patriot Ambulance Service in Genesee County, Mich. “During battle assembly, I studied the Soldier’s Manual of Common Tasks and Warrior Training Tasks.”

Manella is currently a student at Ohlone Community College in Fremont, Calif., working on an undergraduate transfer to Santa Clara University’s business program with a major in accounting. He also works seasonally at Stanford University as a project coordinator, assisting with the management of various construction and renovation projects around the campus. The competition was stiff and although Soldiers came from all over the country to compete, the brotherhood of serving with each other kicked in.

“The camaraderie here has been the best I’ve seen. Even though we are competing against each other, everyone is willing to help out,” said Manella. “It’s a team effort even though we are against each other.”

The support of the Soldiers and the command is what will bring USACAPOC(A)’s best warriors to the top during USARC’s competition, not to mention the confidence and the stamina of  the best warriors.

“I plan on winning at USARC. I’ve been PTing (physical training) like crazy. I’m solid on the rifle, and I know that Army Study Guide forward and backwards. I just need to shave some time off my run and do a few more pushups,” smiled Manella.

“I started out this competition as if I was going to go all the way. I’ve been giving a hundred percent since I started and I don’t plan on slowing down.”