News: First Army soldiers compete to be the Best Warrior
Story by Staff Sgt. Stephen Crofoot
FORT MEADE Md. -- At the recent First Army Best Warrior competition held at Joint Base McGuire Dix Lakehurst N.J., First Army soldiers battled for the title of Noncommissioned Officer and Soldier of the Year. And while the goal was to show how much they knew and how well they were trained, the competition also helped those soldiers to see how much more they could learn.
“It’s definitely a refresher. There are a lot of things I thought I knew before this training and competition. The further we went though, I quickly learned how much my skills dropped. There are many units that count on me for my experience, and now no matter what happens; whether I win or lose, I will be better prepared to offer the tools needed to properly train those units,” said Staff Sgt. Brandon Soper, a multiple rockets system launcher with the 2-289th Field Artillery, 157th Infantry Brigade, Camp Atterbury, Ind.
The Division West NCO competitor agreed.
“I started this competition to prove to myself that I could do it. As I got further in, I realized that this isn’t just about me; everyone needs to push themselves to the limit. As trainer/mentors, we uphold training standards with National Guard and Reserve units, but we really need to make sure we know everything we ask them to know,” said Staff Sgt. Brett Oldenburger, with the 1-310th Infantry Battalion, 181st Infantry Brigade, Fort McCoy, Wis.
During the competition, soldiers from both First Army Divisions were tested mentally and physically. The competition consisted of long days, filled with multiple events, and began with a physical fitness test. Over the next three days, soldiers competed in events including combatives, land navigation, weapons qualifications on multiple weapons, an eight-mile road march, hands-on first aid events, react to enemy contact, and they finished with an essay and an appearance in front of First Army’s sergeants major.
Soper said resiliency played a huge role for him during the competition.
“This competition has had many road blocks for all of us. It’s too easy to get caught up on a small detail, and fixate… but you just can’t. You have to believe that, not only in this competition but in every aspect of life, that it isn’t the single issues that matter; but rather how you respond to the challenge and how you help others respond. You have to have the ability to believe in your leaders to help train you; and you have to be able to believe in yourself and your fellow soldiers to get the mission complete,” said Soper.
The road to the First Army competition wasn’t easy or short. All competitors began at their battalions, competed at their brigades and finally at their respective Division before meeting up at the First Army level competition, explained Command Sgt. Maj. Dennis Defreese, the First Army Division East senior enlisted adviser. He commended the competitors, explaining there are a lot of soldiers who are afraid of this level of competition.
“They are so afraid of failure, they won’t push themselves to the limits they’re capable of. But everyone in this competition has proven that they don’t fall in that category; but rather they are leaders who do not accept defeat. They are the leaders that this great Army is proud to have serving,” said Defreese.
When Oldenburger was announced as the winner of the NCO of the Year title, he said he was extremely proud, but also humbled by the experience.
“It means so much to be able to represent First Army at the next level. I knew coming into this that the winner truly would be the best and there would be no shame in losing this one. We all supported each other from the start and also helped each other study. We knew our weaknesses and pushed each other to improve so we would have the ultimate competitor move on,” he said.
Spec. Michael Martin, 402nd Field Artillery Brigade, Fort Bliss, Texas, won the Soldier of the Year title. Oldenburger and Martin will compete for the Forces Command title in June. The winner at FORSCOM competes in October at the final level of the competition for the titles of the Army Best Warrior and Best NCO of the Year.
“I attribute their winning the competition by their hard work and personal dedication. Their leadership ensured they were mentally prepared and physically ready for the competition. Staff Sgt. Oldenburger and Spec. Martin will continue preparing for the FORSCOM competition by working on their weaknesses and reinforcing their strengths. First in the West!” said Command Sergeant Major Ronald Orosz, senior enlisted adviser, First Army Division West.
First Army, mobilizes, trains, validates and deploys Reserve Component units to support overseas military operations. Along with Reserve component units, the division’s trainer/mentors prepare and deploy sailors and airmen, along with selected members of the interagency and intergovernmental departments, to provide trained and ready forces across a full-spectrum of operations to regional combatant commanders worldwide.