WASHINGTON — Army Spc. Jared Tansley and Staff Sgt. Andrew Fink on Monday were named the 2015 Soldier of the Year and Noncommissioned Officer of the Year, respectively.
The soldiers were selected after this year's Best Warrior Competition, which kicked off Oct. 5 at Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia.
Tansley, an infantryman assigned to 3rd Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment, represented U.S. Army Europe, while Fink, a medic, is assigned to the 409th Area Support Medical Company. He represented U.S. Army Reserve Command.
Tansley, 23, had no idea he would be named the Soldier of the Year.
"During the competition, the only thing that's going through your mind is constant second-guessing," he said. "I was always worried I wasn't doing enough."
Tansley credited his wife, Shawna, for helping him study and stick to a healthy diet. He also went on frequent runs with his dog, Stella.
As Dailey promised, this year's competition focused heavily on physical fitness, Tansley said.
"It was definitely focused on the physical aspects, the ruck march, PT test, the stress shoot," he said.
"SMA Dailey wanted to make sure it would always be focused on the basic fundamentals, warrior tasks and drills, and you have to know that to a T."
Fink, 31, was "shocked" when he was named the NCO of the Year.
"Going through the competition, you don't know how you're doing, and you don't know how the other competitors are doing," he said. "To have my name announced was an honor and a surprise."
Fink, whose unit is based in Madison, Wisconsin, and who has deployed twice to Afghanistan supporting 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, said he thought he would be eliminated from the competition after he struggled with an event that required competitors to react to a gas attack by putting on a protective mask.
"I thought I might be going home, but fortunately that wasn't the case," he said.
Fink prepared for the Best Warrior competition for almost a year, working his way up from the brigade and division levels before earning a spot at the all-Army event.
"Preparing for Best Warrior was a team effort," he said, crediting his girlfriend, Leah Grabert, his chain of command and his battle buddies for their help.
Twenty-six soldiers from across the Army earned the right to compete in the all-Army event.
"Best Warrior competitors are soldiers who demonstrate commitment to our Army values, embody the warrior ethos, and represent the force of our future," Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Daniel Allyn said at the luncheon. "They represent what the Army is about and demonstrate to all of us what it takes to win in a complex world."
This year's Best Warrior was revamped by Sgt. Major of the Army Dan Dailey, who promised a tougher, more realistic and battle-focused competition.
"Everything you do in the Army should reinforce what a soldier needs to be able to achieve on the battlefield in order to win, even in competition," Dailey said. "So the focus on shooting, moving and communicating, and soldier skills, the intent of it is to find the best soldier."
This year's competition also placed more emphasis on physical fitness.
"This is in keeping with the same initiatives I had when I took over," Dailey said. "If you want physical fitness to be important, you have to make it important. Not just say it, but you have to do it, and then you have to do it every day, and leaders have got to do it, and the competition that picks the best soldier has to make it important."
Speaking about noncommissioned officers, Allyn said the service relies heavily on their work.
"Our nation cannot predict who it will fight, when it will fight," he said. "Today, all across the globe, companies, platoons and squads are preventing conflict, shaping security environments, and trained to ensure that, when called upon, our Army will win our nation's wars. This calls for decisive leadership at every echelon."
Soldiers and NCOs play "a vital role" in helping the Army navigate into the future, Allyn said.
"Our Army needs your candid, thoughtful feedback as we continue to grow and adapt the force of the future," he said. "We are counting on you, the finest noncommissioned officers in the world, to lead our soldiers into the future, to develop our soldiers to thrive in an uncertain world."
Michelle Tan is the editor of Army Times and Air Force Times. She has covered the military for Military Times since 2005, and has embedded with U.S. troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Haiti, Gabon and the Horn of Africa.