News: Climbing to the top: 351st CACOM Soldiers prove themselves worthy to be called ‘Best Warrior’
Story by Staff Sgt. Sharilyn Wells
FORT HUNTER LIGGETT, Calif. — After just a few weeks of recovery from their respective command competitions, Soldiers from around the U.S. Army Civil Affairs & Psychological Operations Command (Airborne) converged here to challenge themselves and earn the right to be called Best Warrior.
During four days of grueling obstacles and challenges, both physical and mental, two Soldiers climbed their way to the top, earning them the opportunity to represent USACAPOC(A) at the U.S. Army Reserve Best Warrior Competition in June.
Staff Sgt. Kristopher Stallard, representing the 426th Civil Affairs Battalion based in Upland, California, won Best Noncommissioned Officer and Spc. Keegan Carlson, representing the 440th Civil Affairs Battalion located in Colorado Springs, Colorado, won Best Warrior. Both Soldiers are with the 351st Civil Affairs Command in Mountain View, California.
“It took a lot of studying,” explained Carlson, from Fort Carson, Colorado. “Physically, I focused on maintaining a solid run time. Mentally, I spent a lot more time around my NCOs [noncommissioned officers] because as a TPU [Troop Program Unit], you don’t ‘hear the language’ and it’s easy to forget what you know.”
Stallard, a full-time college student pursuing a nursing degree, agreed.
“I studied and trained whenever I had a break from school,” said the Tustin, California native. “I always had some sort of book open whether it was school related or Army related”
“I also stuck my Army Study Guide under my pillow every night so osmosis will help me study in my sleep!” joked Carlson.
Other competitors mentioned that their lives prior to the event were consumed with studying and physical fitness training.
“It is really about testing my own limits and knowledge of being an NCO, as well as my physical capability,” said Staff Sgt. Michael May, representing Headquarters and Headquarters Company, based out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina. “It was a big gut-check when we stepped off the bus, this competition really challenged us.”
The Best Warrior Competition tested the Soldiers on normal Army skills, such as the Army Physical Fitness Test, warrior tasks, marksmanship, land navigation, a 10k foot march and Army knowledge in a sergeants major board, and on different aspects of those skills.
Both day and night urban orienteering challenged the Soldiers on their navigation skills and physical stamina, as they were timed to find 15 points throughout the post. Each Soldier was then tested during a reflexive fire course, where they moved and fired through a target range with an M9 pistol while they dragged a simulated wounded Soldier a short distance. Also on the list of challenges was swimming in full gear and with a weapon, as well as combatives. Soldiers were even treated to a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter flight from the ranges back to post, offering them a short break from being on their feet.
“I was excited for the opportunity,” said Sgt. Jeffrey Eisner, representing 1st Training Brigade, located at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. “I look at these types of events as a great self assessment and a test to my own skills to see if I’m good at what I think I’m good at and learn what I need to work on. I’m definitely in it to win it, but at the same time if I see that there’s a better NCO out there in CAPOC, great for USACAPOC. My goal is pretty much to feel at the end of the week that I pushed myself as hard as I could. I don’t want to lose to myself, which I feel that everyone here is for.”
Even though it is a competition, all of the Soldiers agreed that through all the challenges, it was hard not to bond with the Soldier sitting next to them.
“It’s a real tough competition and it’s something you want to come out on top in … but they are all just as capable of winning this competition,” said Spc. Evan Robilliard, representing 352nd Civil Affairs Command based in Pensacola, Florida.
“At first when we all came together, we were eyeballing each other, trying to figure out who would be our biggest competition, but as the competition progressed we’ve really come together as a team,” explained Sgt. Brandon Lockhart, representing 7th Psychological Operations Group out of Mountain View, California. “It’s not just about the win; it’s about building camaraderie between the units and the guys here. It also gives us a great opportunity to train and bring back that knowledge to our units.”
This work, Climbing to the top: 351st CACOM Soldiers prove themselves worthy to be called ‘Best Warrior’, by SSG Sharilyn Wells, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.