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Posted: May 11, 2018 1:41 p.m.
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Soldier, NCO of the Year announced

Spc. Zoe Garbarino/

Soldiers throughout the 3rd Infantry Division compete in a 100-meter swim during the 3rd Infantry Division’s Best Warrior Competition, May 2, 2018, at Fort Stewart, Ga. The three-day competition consisted of events that measured each competitor’s physical and mental toughness, as well as their technical and tactical proficiency. The winners of the competition will represent the division at the XVIII Airborne Corps Best Warrior Competition in June.

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Third Infantry Division announced the winners of this year's Noncommissioned Officer and Soldier of the Year Competition, May 7, at Fort Stewart, Georgia.

Staff Sgt. Joshua Jacques and Spc. Jamie Martinez-Feliciano, fire support specialists with 1st Battalion, 9th Artillery Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division Artillery, will go on to compete in the XVIII Airborne Corps Best Warrior competition in June. 

The three-day competition consisted of events that measured the Soldiers physical and mental toughness, resilience and tactical proficiency. 

A total of six NCOs and six Soldiers represented various units across the Marne Division. 

"The Soldiers were put through the ringer to select the best and test their ability to perform at the next level," said Sgt. 1st Class Jeffery Johnson, operations sergeant for the 3rd ID and the noncommissioned officer in charge of the competition.

To test the bounds of each Soldier's ability, competitors had to go through an array of events including a physical fitness test, weapons qualifications, stress shoot, obstacle course, swim race, ruck march, land navigation course, written exam and a board.

"I needed to push past my limits," said Pfc. Sevon Blakney, a radio and communication security repairer with the 87th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 3rd ID Sustainment Brigade. "You're competing against everybody to be the best."

Johnson said the competitors were judged on a point system for each event. First place received 100 points, second place received 90 points and third place received 80 points.

Some competitors use different motivators to carry them throughout the competition.

"My mom was my biggest motivation," Blakney said. "We grew up impoverished, with my mom raising eight kids on her own in a two-bedroom apartment while going to nursing school and working a job. She just kept driving on to keep us fed."

Equally determined - Cpl. Janelle Travis, a combat medic assigned to 2nd Combined Arms Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, said she needed to treat this competition like her rigorous fitness regimen and fight through the pain.

"The ruck march was especially challenging because it came after a really physical day," Travis said. "With physical fitness being a top priority in my life, I used my training and embraced the suck."

Competitors like Travis, drew on the encouragement and faith leaders had in her to make it through the competition.  

"To succeed, I really just kept thinking about how Command Sgt. Maj. Jonathan E. Reffeor encouraged me to compete and vouched for me. That carried me through," Travis said. "I didn't want to let him down."

Travis said her biggest lesson from this competition is how diverse a competitor has to be to successfully navigate through the challenges.

Blakney said he learned just how much it takes to go through a competition like this and will continue training to enhance his physical readiness and his capability.

"I think the Soldier's biggest takeaway from the competition is knowing what they have to shoot for in future NCO and Soldier of the year competitions," Johnson said. "They can talk about this competition with the Soldiers in their unit and motivate them to participate in the future."

Jacques and Martinez-Feliciano will spend the next few weeks preparing for the XIII Airborne Corps Best warrior competition.

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