SAN ANTONIO – Earning a German Armed Forces Badge for proficiency is a hard task. Competing in a Best Warrior Competition can be even tougher. Soldiers from the 7th Psychological Operations Group did both, as they held a combined BWC and GAFB, March 25 to 29, in the humid San Antonio weather at Camp Bullis, Texas. The winners of the BWC will go on to the U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (Airborne) Best Warrior Competition in May 2012 at Fort Bragg, N.C.
Competing for the GAFB is not an everyday occurrence in the Army Reserve, but the two competitions coincided, and some of the events in the GAFB counted for points or were given a “go or no go” toward the BWC.
The events included a 7.5-mile ruck march, M9 pistol qualification, day and night land navigation, and track and field events making it a very rigorous week during the combined four-day competition.
“Combining the GAFB with the Best Warrior Competition is very exhausting,” said Spc. Justin Taylor, a PSYOP specialist in the 341st PSYOP Company, out of San Antonio.
Whether or not soldiers completed proficiently in each portion, they will leave with the experience and knowledge received during both events.
“I’m excited to just be able to learn what I can about everything here so I can take it all back to my unit and teach them,” said Spc. Sally Roberts, a PSYOP specialist in the 324th PSYOP Company, out of Aurora, Colo.
The skills, whether it be the 200-meter swim for the GAFB or how to evaluate a casualty during the BWC, will be valuable at any time during a soldier’s life. Knowing these skills before hand is preferred. However, some competitors are simply learning as they go.
“I wasn’t sure what to expect, so I was willing to take what was thrown at me and it has turned out that it has been really tough with a lot of tough competitors,” said Roberts. “It has been a lot of fun to get back in there and have the heart and mind set and just roll with it.”
Mixed in the planned schedule for the week have been mystery events for the BWC – where with little or no warning or preparation, soldiers are presented a task and are expected to complete it to standard.
One of these mystery events included the assembly of an M9 pistol, an M4 carbine rifle, and an M240B machine gun while blindfolded. After one minute they were allowed to take their blindfolds off. After assembling the weapons (in under six minutes), soldiers had to correctly perform a functions check on each weapon.
Sometimes the soldiers got lucky and had a mystery event they happened to be very good at. It could be anything from weapons assembly to combat life saving skills. Sgt. Derek Hahn, a PSYOP specialist with the 341st, was one of the lucky soldiers who just happened to have recent experience assembling weapons on a time restriction.
Spc. Justin Taylor, with the 341st, used to be an armorer, and together he and Hahn would practice assembling and disassembling weapons, said Hahn. This eventually led them to having races to see who was faster, and with this practice they were oddly prepared for the mystery event.
Many of these soldiers know each other closely and are friends. Feeling the challenge of having to compete with each other only pushed the competitive level higher for each event. This aspect gives the word “competition” a whole new angle.
“Looking to your battle buddies for motivation has helped in the competition,” stated Cpl. Matthew Fish, a PSYOP specialist from the 318th PSYOP Company, out of St. Louis. “Helping them get motivated just makes it more of a competition for myself against the other soldiers.”
During both competitions, camaraderie and teamwork came together as one as shouting voices of motivation helped push the competitors to finish strong.
“The sportsmanship has been excellent,” stated Taylor. “We all want to be the best warrior, but we are going to help each other get there. We are going to motivate each other and help the soldier who might be ten yards behind us during the ruck march.”
Hahn (top non-commissioned officer) and Spc. Levi Coulter (top lower enlisted soldier) from the 324th Psychological Operations Company out of Aurora, Colo., will compete in a month at the USACAPOC(A) competition. The winners at that level will represent USACAPOC(A) at the U.S. Army Reserve Command BWC later in the summer.