From left, Spc. James Spoerl of Avon Lake, human resources specialist, 1st Theater Sustainment Command; Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Perry, 1st Theater Sustainment Command’s senior enlisted adviser; and Staff Sgt, Nahjier Williams, public affairs noncommissioned officer, 1st TSC, during the best warrior competition at Fort Knox, Kentucky, on March 31. The best warrior competition challenges soldiers of all ranks to display their knowledge of competencies through a series of physical and mental challenges.


Weeks of training for the Fort Knox Best Warrior Competition paid off as Avon Lake native Spc. James Spoerl, human resources specialist, S-1, 1st Theater Sustainment Command Soldier, was awarded Fort Knox’s Soldier of the Year and Best Warrior.

Sproerl was presented a Spartan Helmet and the title of Fort Knox Soldier of the Year and Best Warrior in a ceremony at Fort Knox, Kentucky, April 1.

During the weeklong competition, the competitors’ Army knowledge and physical readiness were tested in various areas of warrior tasks and battle drills.

“The experience training up for the competition was great,” Sproerl said. “I was put outside of my comfort zone on several occasions, but the most important part for me was staying motivated and focused on the goal, which was winning.”

The events consisted of a physical fitness assessment, the combat water survival test, M4 and M9 weapons qualification, a grenade assault course, a stress shoot, the confidence course, a 12-mile ruck march, medical aid, weapons assembly and disassembly, patrol lanes with multiple sub-tasks, and a field board for the finale.

At the completion of the competition, four UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters transported all of the competitors to a parade field for the award ceremony.

“Coming out on top was huge for me,” Sproel said. “I wanted this bad, and ending my enlisted career like this was a huge accomplishment for me.”

Before the competition began, Spoerl learned that he was accepted to attend the U.S. Military Academy Preparatory School. “It means a lot to me to be accepted into such a prestigious school,” he said.

The 10-month preparatory school on Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, offers fully paid tuition, current rank’s pay, meals, and room and board, while preparing students to attend the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York.

“A lot of people don’t know about the program. I definitely didn’t, but my section officer in charge helped me and guided me through the process,” Spoerl said.

The school accepts approximately 230-250 cadet candidates into the prep program every year, which results in a 75-80% acceptance rate to the military academy.

Aside from meeting the strict age limit, which requires applicants not be older than 22 on July 1 of their starting year at USMAPS, the application process required letters of recommendation, passing a six-event candidate fitness assessment and a physical examination that is submitted to the Department of Defense Medical Evaluation Review Board.

The program, which has been around since 1946, prepares candidates for what the academy expects of them.

“It’s the best preparation that you could get before going to a military academy,” Spoerl said. “I actually have first-hand military experience that would prep me ahead of cadets coming straight out of high school.”

“Being able to graduate from West Point would be a huge accomplishment for me and my family. It would be something that I would be proud of for the rest of my life,” the future cadet said. “It would change my life.”

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