News: Spartan Soldiers test themselves in competition
Story by Sgt. Javier Amador
KHOST PROVINCE, Afghanistan --The Spartan Soldiers of the 4th Battalion, 25th Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), held a two-day long top noncommissioned officer and top Soldier of the rotation competition on Assistance Platform Clark, Afghanistan, May 15 and 16, 2014.
The competition was the concluding event to determine the very best from previous Soldier and noncommissioned officer of the month winners to determine the top Soldier and noncommissioned officer of the deployment.
“We've had a total of four Soldier and noncommissioned officer of the month boards, where instead of conducting them in the traditional board style,we asked them questions, we held them as competitions and chose the winners of those competitions to compete for the Soldier and noncommissioned officer of the rotation,” said Sgt. 1st Class Jamie McYntire, the operations sergeant major for the 4th Battalion, 25th Field Artillery Regiment.
The noncommissioned officers and junior enlisted Soldiers competed separately in several basic and intermediate level Soldier tasks, all of which were graded as well as timed.
The first day of the competition began with the Soldiers demonstrating their ability to set up radios by powering them up, setting their frequencies and performing a functional check. Then they made a call for fire in the simulator for artillery fire to destroy a target.
The call for fire event tested the Soldiers on their ability to accurately find the position of both themselves and a target on a map. They also had to radio the information to a simulated fire direction center where they ordered the artillery rounds to destroy targets. The time it took the Soldier to destroy a target as well as the number of corrections and rounds were used to determine the score.
The second day, the ruck competition began at 5 a.m. with an inspection of each competitor's ruck sack. They stepped off on a nearly six-mile-long, tactical road march. Two by two, the Soldiers began, carrying 120 pounds, body armor, a weapon and radio. As they reached pre-determined checkpoints, they had to radio-in their locations.
The end point for the tactical road march was at the small-arms range where they grounded their ruck sacks and competed in the final few events, including individual movement drills during which the Soldiers demonstrated low and high crawling techniques as well as three to five second rushes into a fighting position. The Soldiers then had to engage paper targets with their M4 carbine rifle for a weapon qualification score.
From there, they ended the competition performing first aid and medical evacuation on a simulated casualty at the combat casualty care exercise. They had to call for a medical evacuation helicopter on their radios using the U.S. Army's nine-line medical evacuation communication procedure to give the responders critical information such as location, number of casualties and the enemy situation in the area. Again, everything was graded for accuracy and time.
The competitors came from many different backgrounds, making for a diverse field of competition as well as giving everyone involved an opportunity to learn something new.
“We had everyone besides just the infantry and artillery,” said McYntire, of Queens NY. “We also had mechanics, cooks and other MOS's competing, and it got them out of their comfort zones by doing things they don't normally do such as load radios or call for fire.”
Contestants considered the tactical road march as the most physically challenging event. For U.S. Army Spc. Kenneth Mendez, the unit armorer for the battalion’s Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, the cheering from the Soldiers in the guard towers along the way helped him push forward.
“Having the extra weight was tough, and it tested my endurance, but I got through it because of the motivation I got from the Soldiers,” said Mendez, of Abilene, Texas.
Mendez said he also learned a lot about what he's capable of doing when the going gets tough.
“It was tough, but I learned a lot about adversity and how to deal with it,” said Mendez. “I wanted to quit, but I had to keep going -- I had to finish -- I had to represent my unit.”
U.S. Army Sgt. Jay Simons, a team leader with Cherokee Troop, 3rd Squadron, 71st Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, agreed with Mendez about the tactical road march being the toughest event. He credited the Soldiers along the way with pushing him to set the example of not quitting regardless of how hard the task at hand may be.
“I was having a rough time out there, but I had some Soldiers up in the guard towers, and I had to push myself to show them I could do this,” said Simons, of St. Albans, Vt.
(I understand why you wanted to put this last guy in, but he says the same thing as the other guy. Might be better to get another quote somehow)