News: Sense of community aids Army Reserve Soldier during Best Warrior Competition
Story by Staff Sgt. Shawn Morris
JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. - The Apache helicopter landed with a thud, its movements not responding to the pilot's control stick. The crew chief jumped onto the tarmac and ran inside the hangar looking for help. The mission wasn't over, and this bird had to get get back in the air fast.
Grabbing his tools, Spc. Cameron Caylor kept his cool and attended to the troubled aircraft, putting his countless hours of training as an AH-64 Apache attack helicopter repairer to use.
This is the type of scenario Caylor trains for regularly as part of his job in the Army Reserve, but it took special training and dedication to prepare for this week's 2014 U.S. Army Reserve Best Warrior Competition at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst.
“We're all embracing the suck right now, but at least we're all embracing it together,” Caylor said following back-to-back events consisting of an 8-mile ruck march, 1-mile litter carry and M4 rifle qualification on a particularly hot and humid day in the New Jersey pine lands.
It wouldn't be long before Caylor would be called to the next event, but for now he had a moment to rest.
Caylor is part of a small community of Army Reserve Soldiers vying for the title of Army Reserve Best Warrior.
The competition tests Soldiers' resiliency and warrior skills in events such as the physical fitness, rifle and pistol qualification ranges, hand-to-hand combat, day and night land navigation, 8-mile ruck march, urban operations and several mystery events throughout the week.
“The military itself is a tight-knit community,” said Caylor, a Soldier with the Army Reserve's 1st Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment headquartered in Conroe, Texas, representing the 11th Aviation Command. “The best thing to do is to create that community, because I could deploy with some of these guys tomorrow.”
Caylor's attitude meshes well with being a Soldier in the Army Reserve, which is a community-based force whose Soldiers live, work and train in more than 1,000 communities throughout the nation. The local citizenry often supports those Soldiers within their community, becoming a force multiplier for Soldier morale and readiness.
“When we were coming back from annual training two years ago, we came in and there was actually a church that came out and welcomed us home,” said Caylor, a student at Lone Star Community College. “It felt awesome that they welcomed us back with open arms. I thought that was pretty amazing that someone was proud of us when they didn't have to be.”
Giving support back to the community became easier in 2012 when the National Defense Authorization Act allowed Army Reserve Soldiers to provide Defense Support to Civil Authorities during natural disasters and other emergency situations.
“The Apache can't really do very much [community support] because it's a gunship,” said Caylor. “But because the Reserve is now drawing back on having Apaches and switching over to Black Hawks, not only am I getting to learn a new aircraft, but we can support the community in case a natural disaster does happen.”
The balance between civilian and military life is something every Army Reserve Soldier has to manage. It's a relationship reflected in phrases such as “citizen-Soldier,” “warrior-citizen” and “2X citizen.”
Army Reserve Soldiers are required to meet the same standards as their active duty counterparts. Adherence to these standards keeps Soldiers physically, mentally and emotionally resilient while training, when deployed and during events such as the Best Warrior Competition.
As Caylor's moment of rest ended, he rose to his feet, shouldered his ruck sack and grabbed his gear. Like the Apaches he keeps airborne, Caylor was off to complete his next mission.