Spc. David Obray named Army Soldier of the Year
Story by Timothy L. Hale
U.S. Army Reserve Command
WASHINGTON— For the first time in the seven-year history of the Department of the Army NCO and Soldier of the Year “Best Warrior” Competition, an Army Reserve Soldier has won top honors.
Spc. David Obray was one of 12 junior enlisted Soldiers representing the major Army commands at the five-day competition held at Fort Lee, Va.
His selection as the top Soldier was announced at the Sergeant Major of the Army luncheon at the Association of the United States Army annual convention on Oct. 6, 2008, in Washington, D.C.
In the end, Obray won the competition by conquering urban warfare simulations, board interviews, essays, physical fitness tests and Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills relevant to today’s current operating environment.
“My fellow competitors were outstanding individuals and there is no doubt I will see them again,” he said. “From the beginning, my mindset was this is a lot of training and I looked forward to bringing it back to my unit.”
In a post-announcement press conference, Obray said he felt the competition reflected what Soldiers and NCOs are facing during operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The 22-year-old Construction Equipment Repair Specialist with the 492nd Engineer Company, 414th Engineer Command, Mankato, Minn., is a senior at Winona State University, Winona, Minn. He is the President of the Student Association at WSU and is pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Law & Society and Business Law.
Weighing 300 pounds at age 16, Obray credits military discipline with giving him the courage and ability to become physically and mentally fit. Obray’s brother and sister currently serve in the Army.
Being named the Army’s top Soldier brings new challenges for Obray. In the days following the announcement, he had numerous national television and hometown media interviews, visited the White House and met with 600 World War II veterans, 130 of which were from his home state of Minnesota.
Throughout the next year, Obray will balance his time in college with being a spokesperson for not only the Army, but the Army Reserve as well at public functions throughout the United States.
In the NCO of the Year competition, Staff Sgt. Michael Noyce Merino of the Montana Army National Guard took top honors. It was also the first time the National Guard has won this prestigious competition.
Editor’s Note: Spc. Obray was promoted to the rank of Sergeant on Dec. 3, 2008. In the 2006 Army NCO and Soldier of the Year competition Army Reserve Spc. John Emmett won the Soldier of the Year title. However, he was on active duty and represented U.S. Army Europe at the time of the competition.