News: Best Warrior Competition is music to Army Reserve Soldier's ears
Story by Staff Sgt. Shawn Morris
JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. - As Army Reserve Sgt. Gregory Doolittle prepared to execute his mission, he performed a final check of his equipment. His gear had to be fine tuned to perfection. Failure was not an option.
Doolittle and his squad-sized element readied their gear and waited silently for their leader to give the signal. This was the calm before the storm; that moment of silence before the sound of their equipment in action would come crashing down around them.
It was at that moment that their leader gave the signal for the Soldiers to move into action.
And as the bandmaster's baton began to wave to and fro, Doolittle and his fellow Soldiers in the jazz quintet played their instruments for all the crowd to hear.
“The Army Music Program is a really great opportunity to grow as a musician, to become better on your instrument, to build your musician's resume and to just put meaning into your music,” said Doolittle, a trumpet player with the Army Reserve's 191st Army Band headquartered in Camp Parks, California.
This week, the only music Doolittle is hearing is reveille each early morning wakeup and retreat as he trains through the night during the 2014 U.S. Army Reserve Best Warrior Competition. The competition tests Soldiers' resiliency and warrior skills in events such as the Army Physical Fitness Test, M4 rifle and M9 pistol qualification ranges, hand-to-hand combatives, day and night land navigation, 8-mile ruck march, urban operations and several mystery events throughout the week.
Doolittle had to balance training for the weeklong event with the band's real-world mission to provide musical support to community events, military ceremonies and funerals.
“That's probably one of the biggest challenges, because we have our Soldier tasks and a lot of stuff we need to cover in just one battle assembly each month.” Doolittle said. “Then on top of that, everyone's practicing their military occupational specialty.”
Army bands must fulfill their training requirements like other Army Reserve units, but have the additional duty of performing real-world missions throughout communities and military installations.
“It's definitely a squeeze,” he continued. “We have gigs on odd days of the week sometimes, and you may have to rearrange your plans and come into the band hall at 6 a.m. on a Tuesday. It really is a big time commitment.”
This commitment may lead Doolittle to his military goals of attending Airborne school and one day becoming a band first sergeant.
“It's up to the individual to prove you're a Soldier,” he said. “At the end of the day, everyone in the Army is a Soldier, so if you're a bandsman or a paper pusher or infantry, it doesn't matter – you still have to be able to fire your weapon, do physical training and complete all the Soldier tasks.”
As Doolittle continues to try to prove he is the Army Reserve Best Warrior, he encourages young musicians to think about the benefits of service as an Army Reserve bandsman.
“As a young musician, it can be hard to build up your resume, and putting 'Army band' on your musician's resume is pretty impressive to a lot of groups,” he explained. “And you get paid to play music, so what more could you ask for?”
There is one more bullet Doolittle could ask for on his resume – to earn the title of 2014 Army Reserve Best Warrior.