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East Bay reservist is Army’s NCO of the Year

An East Bay Army reservist is the Army’s Non-Commissioned Officer of the Year after winning the annual Best Warrior Competition.

Manella (U.S. Army photo)Sgt. 1st Class Jason Manella, 27, who recently moved from Fremont to Hayward, competed with 23 other soldiers – representing more than 900,000 troops in 12 Army commands around the globe – in a three-day test of soldiers’ physical and mental toughness in order to win the title. He’s the first reservist ever to win the competition.

Manella is a civil affairs specialist with the Mountain View-based 445th Civil Affairs Battalion, which belongs to the U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command.

An Army article says Manella began studying for the Best Warrior Competition in Afghanistan as a way of recovering his brain from multiple improvised explosive device blasts. Suffered from memory loss, confusion, headaches, dizziness and disequilibrium, he picked up the Army Study Guide to see if he could heal his mind from the trauma.

“Right now I just want to use this opportunity to represent the Reserve Command and show that Reservists are just as good as active duty, National Guard, and perhaps it’s also an opportunity to represent other (traumatic brain injury Soldiers) and wounded warriors and lead them in their recovery,” said Manella.

Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Pleasanton, praised Manella today on the House floor:

“I am very thankful for the service of people like Sergeant Manella and those I met with while I was in Afghanistan. And I know that Operation Enduring Freedom has led to thousands of Americans being wounded who served over in Afghanistan and are healing today back home on their own path to recovery. Sergeant Manella’s story is truly one that is uplifting for every soldier, man and woman, who is recovering,” Swalwell said. “Congratulations again to Sergeant Manella. Your strength, your determination, and your character is an inspiration to thousands of other wounded men and women of our armed services.”

Click here for a video of Manella being interviewed during the competition.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.