Prescott woman named Army soldier of year: Gallagher becomes first woman to win annual award
Sgt. Sherri Jo Gallagher, who grew up in Prescott and graduated from Prescott Christian High School in 2002, won the U.S. Army's Best Warrior Competition and was named Army Soldier of the Year on Monday at the Association of the United States Army Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C.
Gallagher, 26, currently an instructor/shooter with the Army's Marksmanship Unit, is the first woman to win the competition, which is in its ninth year.
Gallagher, who has been in the Army for two years and represented U.S. Army Training and Document Command, competed over the weekend in the 2010 Best Warrior Competition in Fort Lee, Va. The Best Warrior Competition is described as the Super Bowl of Army competitions to determine the Army's soldier and non-commissioned officer of the year.
"There was a lot of preparation that was put into this and it's just a huge honor to be able to be named as the best warrior for the soldiers," Gallagher told CNN.
Gallagher described military boards that started off with Sergeant Major of the Army Kenneth O. Preston, a physical test, and an exam that all Best Warrior competitors took.
"And after that we went into soldier skills and all the different warrior tasks that all soldiers should be competent in, and that included first aid, land navigation, convoying clearing rooms and any basic level soldier skill coming into the Army," Gallagher said.
When asked if he was excited to hear about Gallagher winning the competition, Middleton Tompkins, Gallagher's stepfather, said "Oh, yes! We're so proud of her."
"I was just wiping the tears out of my eyes," her father, Joe Gallagher, said after seeing his daughter's interview on CNN. "I'm so proud of her."
"When we heard the results of how she was doing in each individual event last week, I told my other daughters she has a good chance of winning this," Tompkins added.
Tompkins said his wife, Nancy, was at Monday's ceremony in Washington.
"I knew about 45 minutes ago, when she (my wife) texted me 'She's won,' " Tompkins said.
Gallagher said one of her favorite events was room clearing.
"They gave you a team of people to go clear rooms, but in the process they gave you a whole village. They gave you a target you had to search for," she said. "As you go through you clear all the rooms, you detain the people that you need to detain, you find your target and you have to march him back into the home area.
"You're graded on every step of the way. And also in the process, the team you were given, they were not experienced in room clearing, so you had 10 minutes to prepare them for the event that was about to take place."
Gallagher said the hardest part for her was the training that led up to the competition, but she said her trainers prepared her well.
"I was able to enjoy the whole thing, because I felt I was truly prepared for it," Gallagher said.
Gallagher is combat lifesaver qualified, combative Level I certified and completed the Instructor's Training Course.
Her personal interests include working as a veterinarian technician, educational growth, competitive shooting, helping others, being outdoors, physical training and spending time with family and friends.
Gallagher's short-term goals include deploying and assisting her team in their mission in Afghanistan, earning a leadership position within the service rifle section, and earning a bachelor's degree in medicine.
Gallagher's long-term goals include making a career out of the Army, earning a gold medal in the Olympics for marksmanship, and obtaining the Distinguished International Rifle and Pistol Badges.
Tompkins said he's hoping to see Gallagher next, when she comes home for Christmas.