FORT LEE, Va. – The Army Reserve Command scored big in this year's Department of the Army Best Warrior competition, winning first place in the Noncommissioned Officer category and second place in the Soldier category.
Sgt. 1st Class Jason Manella, of Fremont, Calif., earned the title of Noncommissioned Officer of the year, and his counterpart, Spc. Mitchell Fromm, of Stevens Point, Wis., landed second place among the Soldiers.
Spc. Adam Christensen, of Las Vegas, Nev., representing the U.S. Army Pacific Command, won the Soldier of the Year title.
"I'm still processing it right now," Manella said about the victory right after the winners were announced. "It's an honor they bestowed upon me ... I was in complete shock."
Manella is a civil affairs specialist with the 445th Civil Affairs Battalion, which belongs to the U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command. Fromm is a combat engineer with the 428th Engineer Company, which belongs to the 416th Theater Engineer Command.
"I knew I did well, but I had no idea how well these other guys did, and it wasn't like any other competition I've ever been through so far. I'm always improving," said Fromm.
The competition began with 24 Soldiers from 12 Army commands, representing more than 900,000 Soldiers across the globe. The competition challenged the contestants over a span of three days both mentally and physically. Most of the competitors had trained for this event for more than a year.
"Right now I just want to use this opportunity to represent the Reserve Command and show that Reservists are just as good as active duty, National Guard, and perhaps it's also an opportunity to represent other (traumatic brain injury Soldiers) and wounded warriors and lead them in their recovery," said Manella.
Manella began studying for the Best Warrior Competition in Afghanistan as a way of recovering his brain from multiple improvised explosive device blasts. He suffered from memory loss, confusion, headaches, dizziness and disequilibrium. He picked up the Army Study Guide to see if he could heal his mind from the trauma.
More than a year of studying and training later, he won the highest honor among his peers.
"Winning amongst the entire Army ... proves all soldiers are competent no matter which component they belong to or train in," said Manella.
Fromm and Manella trained for two straight months together following their victory at the Army Reserve level in June. Fromm is a firefighter in his civilian life and Manella is preparing for a bachelor's degree in accounting.