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Feature Stories

NEWS | April 22, 2021

First Team soldier wins Fort Knox best warrior, soldier of the year, and accepted into the United States Military Academy Preparatory School

By Staff Sgt. Nahjier Williams 1st TSC

The last week of March was full of achievement and recognition for a 1st Theater Sustainment Command Soldier.

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

“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 Avon Lake, Ohio, native 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, 2021.

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

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 where soldiers, families, and guests all waited for the announcement. It turns out, Fort Knox’s Best Warrior had more to celebrate.

“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. He had the opportunity to FaceTime with his parents who were filled with emotion over his success. “It means a lot to me to be accepted into such a prestigious school,” he said.

The 10 month-long preparatory school offers student’s fully paid tuition, their current rank’s pay, meals, and room and board, while preparing them to attend the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. Spoerl said the skills he gained from his enlisted experience have prepared him for the program.

“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 percent acceptance rate to the military academy.

Aside from meeting the strict age limit, which requires Soldiers 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 which is submitted to the Department of Defense Medical Evaluation Review Board. Spoerl was also required to write multiple essays which included, why he wants to become an officer; the qualities that make him a good leader; and how he would deal with issues that involved equality.

Spoerl said the program, which has been around since 1946, is meant to prepare candidates for what the academy expects of them. Spoerl feels that his time serving as an enlisted Soldier also prepared him for this new path.

“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.”

As he looks to the future, Spoerl is filled with motivation to complete USAMPS, earn his acceptance to and ultimately graduate from USMA.

“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.”