The Best Warrior Competition was created by retired Army Sergeant Major Jack Tilley in 2002. The idea behind the competition is to showcase the best-noncommissioned officers and soldiers throughout the Army. This annual competition tests soldiers' physical and mental toughness and endurance through a number of warrior tasks and drills.

"We want leaders in the Army that can think, be creative and fight in whatever situation they are put in," Command Sergeant Major Jeffery Dillingham said. "The soldiers can adjust things within the given task as long as they complete the mission assigned."

Examples of this are displayed in the obstacle course. Soldiers maneuver through various stations while in full gear and carrying a weapon.

"We're looking to see what adjustments are made," Dillingham said. "We never said they had to hold the rifle while jumping up on the box. We never said they had to jump the full height of the box. They could essentially put the rifle down and tip the box on its side to make it a shorter jump. They can set the rifle on the ground when they toss the medicine ball in the air. We never said they had to wear it around their neck during the task. They have to make sure they bring it with to the next station."

During the four-day competition, the competitors will test their Army aptitude -- conquering urban warfare simulations, physical fitness tests, written exams and warrior tasks and battle drills relevant to today’s operating environment.

"It takes a lot out of you, just about everything you've got," Fort Wainwright Staff Sergeant Dakota Fingerson said. "It was harder than I expected sir. Not one area was easy. You didn't get a break throughout the entire event, which kept the heart rate going which obviously was the intent of the course. So job well done and hurrah on who created the course."

Soldiers or warriors in the ranks of private through specialist from JBER and Fort Wainwright competed for the U.S. Army Alaska Soldier of the Year title. Those in the ranks of corporal through sergeant first class will compete for the U.S. Army Alaska NCO of the Year title.

The two winners will later compete in Hawaii to be U.S. Army Pacific’s best and a chance to compete for the U.S. Army Noncommissioned Officer and Soldier of the Year title in Virginia this fall.

This year's winners are Specialist Zachary Baxter, 25, from Boston, Massachusetts. Baxter is a cavalry scout with B Troop, 1st Squadron (Airborne), 40th Cavalry Regiment at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

Staff Sgt. Dakota Fingerson, 29, from Madison, Wisconsin. Fingerson is a howitzer section chief with C Battery, 2nd Battalion, 8th Field Artillery Regiment at Fort Wainwright.

Spc. Baxter and Staff Sgt. Fingerson will compete at the U.S. Army Pacific Best Warrior Competition at Fort Shafter, Hawaii, from June 10-15.

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