News: Soldiers compete in Lightning Warrior Week
Story by Sgt. Kimberly Lessmeister
FORT HOOD, Texas -- With his body contorted in an unnatural position and wounds protruding from his legs and abdomen, a Soldier cried out for help next to his downed aircraft. Like a scene from a war movie, a fellow Soldier rushed through purple smoke to pull the casualty to safety and provide medical care under hostile enemy fire.
What sounds like the start to a Medal of Honor recipient's citation, is actually a simulated training task which is part of 69th Air Defense Artillery Brigade's Lightning Warrior Week.
The weeklong competition, held here June 23-27, helped leaders of 69th ADA decide who would be the Soldier and Noncommissioned Officer of the Quarter.
Battalion leadership hand-picked one NCO and one junior-enlisted Soldier to represent each of the three battalions in the brigade and also in the brigade's Headquarters and Headquarters Battery.
Sgt. Maj. Christopher Moore, the brigade's operations sergeant major, said what the brigade looks for are Soldiers who are the "360" model of a Soldier.
"We're looking for who stands alone among their peers," said Moore, a Lawton, Oklahoma, native. "(Someone) who is capable of going the extra mile (without) quitting."
Moore and the brigade's senior enlisted Soldier, Command Sgt. Maj. William Maddox, oversaw what events competitors needed to perform in order to win.
Maddox introduced Lightning Warrior Week when he first joined the brigade in 2012.
"It kind of mirrors what the (Forces Command) Soldier of the Year competition is," said Maddox, a Paris, Tennesse, native. "It's an opportunity for the subordinate units to display their best Soldiers and best junior NCOs to represent their battalion."
On the first day of the competition, the competitors pushed themselves to get the highest score possible during an Army Physical Fitness Test, which consists of two minutes of pushups, two minutes of sit-ups, and a two-mile run.
During the next event, Soldiers had to correctly plot and physically find five points during land navigation.
For Sgt. Adrian Gonzalez, a Patriot launching station enhanced operator/maintainer with Battery B, 4th Battalion, 5th Air Defense Artillery Battalion, 69th ADA, and Dumas, Texas, native, this was the most challenging part, due to weather, he said.
"Right before we started (land navigation), it rained," Gonzalez said. "So walking through that grass and brush ... was kind of rough."
Gonzalez successfully found all five points and said he prepared by reading the Army field manual for land navigation.
Soldiers digging into Army regulations and manuals is exactly what Maddox said he wanted.
"At the end of the day, it makes better Soldiers because they have to get into Army regulations and the (field manuals) and study so they can pass the board," Maddox said.
Once the competitors completed the land navigation test, they showed their knowledge of basic Soldier skills by operating Army equipment, including a Defense Advanced Global Positioning System Receiver (DAGR), properly assembling three different weapon types, and performing a functions check on each weapon.
The next challenge of the day had the Soldiers run through a combat scenario in which they were a team leader, leading their team through a patrol to gather intelligence and search for missing people.
Role players from battalions in the brigade wore simulated wounds from a trauma moulage kit and screamed for help.
It was up to the competitors to correctly triage the casualty and get him medically evacuated by accurately calling for a nine-line medevac request.
Lastly, after sending up a nine-line unexploded ordnance report, and filling out a written land navigation test, Soldiers went home to prepare for the next day.
At home, Gonzalez found motivation through his wife, he said.
"She was a big supporter," he said. "She's in the military too, so she knows what I'm going through."
The following day would prove to be the most physically challenging for the group.
In full battle gear and carrying a 35-pound ruck sack, Soldiers foot marched from the brigade headquarters to Sportsman Range, here.
Pfc. Elizabeth Caulder, a medic with Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 4th Bn., 5th ADA Bn., 69th ADA, gave out a loud battle cry as she approached the finish line.
Caulder, a Fayetteville, North Carolina, native, said she tried out for air assault school the week prior, so her body had already been tested and was recovering. Still she made it in the required time.
Motivation from the NCOs running the event helped push Caulder through the ruck march, she said.
"When I didn't believe in myself, they still did," Caulder explained.
At the range, the Soldiers had one chance to qualify with their assigned weapons.
As if one foot march were not enough for the day, Soldiers picked their ruck sacks back up and marched over to Soldiers Field, here, where they took turns battling each other in combatives.
After a layout of the equipment in their ruck sacks, the hopefuls went home to get in last preparations for the board that would determine, overall, who were the winners of the competition.
Standing tall in their dress uniforms the next day, the Soldiers paced the halls of the brigade headquarters building while reciting creeds and responding to military knowledge questions from their sponsors.
One by one, each Soldier entered the board and sat in front of senior NCOs who drilled them with question after question about military topics.
Finally, the time came for the brigade command sergeant major to name the winners.
Gonzalez took the title of NCO of the Quarter, and in a very close race, Caulder won for the junior-enlisted Soldiers.
"I'm excited to go back to the unit and say that I won," said Gonzalez.
Caulder, who has competed twice for Soldier of the Quarter, said she feels like the win will put her ahead.
"I learn more and more each time," she explained. "The more you do, even if you don't win, people (still) respect you for that."
Gonzalez and Caulder have bragging rights not only for themselves, but their battalion, and will have the opportunity to compete for NCO and Soldier of the Year for the brigade.