Sgt. 1st Class Jason H. Alexander will be one of 10 soldiers competing next week at Fort Lee, Va., for top Army NCO of the Year honors.

Sgt. 1st Class Jason H. Alexander will be one of 10 soldiers competing next week at Fort Lee, Va., for top Army NCO of the Year honors. (Jennifer H. Svan / S&S)

CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait — What does it take to be the best noncommissioned officer in the Army? Sgt. 1st Class Jason H. Alexander, Troop Medical Clinic NCO for Area Support-Group Kuwait, is about to find out.

Starting Monday, he’ll be one of 10 soldiers vying in the Army’s NCO of the Year competition at Fort Lee, Va.

The five-day event, also being called the Best Warrior Competition, will put soldiers through a series of tests to gauge Army knowledge, physical fitness and combat and leadership skills.

In the end, it may come down to who can sustain their edge — and not falter under pressure — before the Army’s top enlisted leaders.

“It’s whoever can maintain the highest standard every day on every single event,” Alexander said. “Because the minute you slip, at that level, someone else isn’t going to slip. The minute you miss four shots at the range, you could have just lost the whole board.”

Command Sergeant Major of the Army Sgt. Maj. Kenneth Preston heads up the board, on which also sit about half a dozen command sergeant majors from the Army’s major commands, Alexander said.

After being named the best NCO for Army Central in July, Alexander went on to win top NCO for Forces Command at Fort Hood, Texas, in August. Forces Command represents the Army’s large combat divisions.

Some preparation is involved. Army manuals and study guides are available, but Alexander expects a curveball or two from the board.

“They might ask some things about new military policies that are coming out, what’s the current trend in Iraq,” he said. “They can really throw anything out there.”

The remaining days will be filled with marksmanship; fitness tests; a written exam of 50 questions; gear inspection; an essay with an unknown topic; day and night land navigation in urban terrain; and “warrior tasks” such as first aid or reacting to a nuclear, chemical or biological threat. There won’t be much downtime.

“You’ll have an event all the way up to the nighttime,” said Alexander, a 29-year-old combat medic from Upper Darby, Pa. “And the next morning you get up really early, so it’s also putting in that stress of sleep deprivation.”

Alexander joined the Army at 19 after a stint in college. “I needed more in my life. I needed direction, something that would make my family proud, as well,” he said.

Command Sergeant Major of U.S. Army Central Franklin G. Ashe likes Alexander’s chances.

“He’s very professional; he’s very dedicated to his soldiers and his mission. He spends a lot of his personal time making himself a better soldier and better noncommissioned officer,” Ashe said.

The Army’s top soldier and NCO of the Year will be announced Oct. 9 at the Association of the United States Army sergeant major luncheon in Washington, D.C.

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.

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