FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — Sgt. Saral Shrestha, a Fort Bragg soldier from Nepal, has been selected as the 2012 Soldier of the Year, the Army announced Monday.
"It was a big surprise," Shrestha said. "You are competing with the best of the best."
Shrestha, 24, from Katmandu, is assigned to Group Service Support Company, Group Support Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group, Army Special Forces Command, as a power generation equipment repairer.
He came to the United States in 2007 to go to college in Nebraska and joined the Army in 2009, which he said was a good fit for him because his parents taught him discipline. He has deployed to Afghanistan.
The competition included urban warfare simulations, board interviews, physical fitness tests, written exams, and battle drills simulating what soldiers would encounter in combat.
His wife, Elisha, and unit members helped him prepare for the competition.
"I got so much help from everybody," he said.
The hardest part of the competition was knowing Army regulations and appearing before a board of sergeants major, he said.
He plans to attend officer candidate school, and his goals are to get a master's degree in computer science and attend the selection course for Special Forces.
He was among 24 soldiers representing 12 commands from across the Army who competed at Fort Lee, Va., on Oct. 15-18. This is the 11th competition.
Sgt. Maj. of the Army Ray Chandler oversaw the annual competition, which names the Department of the Army's Soldier and Noncommissioned Officer of the Year.
Contestants for Soldier of the Year included the ranks of private through specialist. Shrestha has been promoted to sergeant since he began the competition.
NCO of the Year candidates were corporal through sergeant first class. All Army active-duty, National Guard and Army Reserve soldiers are eligible to compete.
The contestants represented U.S. Army Forces Command, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, U.S. Army Europe, U.S. Army Materiel Command, U.S. Army Medical Command, U.S. Army Pacific Command, U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command, U.S. Army Special Operations Command, U.S. Army Installation Management Command, U.S. Army Reserve Command, U.S. Army National Guard, and the National Capitol Region.
Contestants appeared before a board of six senior sergeants major from across the Army. These boards evaluate competitor appearance, military bearing and knowledge of critical Army topics.
The announcement was made during the Association of the United States Army annual meeting in Washington.