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    Air defense Soldier outshines peers during competition

    Air defense Soldier outshines peers during competition

    Photo By Sgt. Brandon Banzhaf | Spc. Ryan Gaetz a Madison, Wisconsin native and contestant with Headquarters and...... read more read more



    Story by Sgt. Brandon Banzhaf 

    69th Air Defense Artillery Brigade

    FORT HOOD, Texas – Spc. Ryan Gaetz, an air defense battle management system operator with the Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 69th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, volunteered to compete against his peers during the Lightning Warrior Week competition consisting of nonstop tests and challenges to push the Soldiers to their physical and mental limits.
    “I volunteered for this to get more experience and to do the things I find fun,” said Gaetz, a native of Madison, Wisconsin. “In preparation, I knew I had to acquire more knowledge. I got with a previous winner of the competition to help me out with the patrolling and land navigation.”
    The competition, hosted by the 69th ADA BDE comprised of three consecutive days of various events designed to evaluate the competitors on their ability to lead and apply their military knowledge to the tasks at hand.
    Each battalion in the brigade selected a commissioned officer, noncommissioned officer and Soldier to compete against their peers.
    The first day of the competition began with the Army Physical Fitness Test.
    “I think that the APFT is a discriminator in the competition for the candidates,” said Sgt. 1st Class Anthony Jones, a Columbus, Georgia native and one of the facilitators of the competition for the 69th ADA BDE “It basically gives the evaluators a look at who is prepared to go to future competitions. We can tell who wants to win by the way they perform in the three-event test.”
    Gaetz utilized every second possible during the pushup and sit-up events, never giving up until the whistle blew and time was up. He took off for the two-mile run with a fast stride. As he closed in on the last stretch, he broke out into a full sprint.
    “I gave it what I had,” he said.
    Next, all competitors were loaded into the back of a tactical vehicle and were brought to the Phantom Run training area.
    Receiving his mission, he donned his gear and briefed his squad. They then took off for a patrol in the urban-like training area.
    “Bravo, this is Main. Try to get to the helicopter site and set up a 360-degree perimeter and treat casualties,” said Master Sgt. Clifton Rush, operations sergeant major for the brigade, facilitating the lane. “How copy, over.”
    “Good copy, over” replied Gaetz.
    Shots rang out from across the field.
    “Contact, contact,” yelled Gaetz as he and his squad opened fire.
    With the opposing forces wiped out, Gaetz and his squad moved to the crash site to treat the casualty.
    First, he went stopped the simulated bleeding by putting his knee on the patients thigh and placing a tourniquet. Once all life threatening injuries were addressed, he called in a medical evacuation.
    Once that scenario was finished, they moved on to the next one.
    “I just focused on the task at hand,” said Gaetz. “I try to do really well at what I’m doing and handle the next situation as it arises. “
    To end the day, the contestants were instructed to find five points in two hours using only a map, compass and protractor. Once they plotted their points, the contestants took off in different directions into the wilderness.
    The birds chirped, twigs crunched under their feet and the trees waved in the wind.
    “My first point was the most difficult,” he said. “Walking through the brush I felt like my pacing was a little off but when I knew the point was in close proximity, I just walked around the area and slowly closed in until I found my point.”
    Gaetz found four out of five.
    The second day seemed as draining as the first. They started before the break of dawn with a ruck march to the Engagement Skills Trainer 2000.
    “During the ruck march, I had two competitors ahead of me and that gave me a push to go faster and maintain a good stride,” said Gaetz. “I was uneasy about the EST because I don’t normally do well there, but I didn’t do that bad.
    The last physical event was a combatives tournament.
    Gaetz and Private 1st Class Roman Adams, a Baltimore, Maryland native and competitor from 1st Battalion, 62nd Air Defense Artillery Regiment stood about five feet apart facing each other with their arms up, guarding their face.
    “That first round was tough,” said Adams. “We both did our best. There are no hard feelings and after the matches everyone is still friendly.
    They circled each other, sizing up their opponent, looking for a moment of weakness to attack.
    The two clashed. With their arms interlocked, they took turns pushing and pulling each other in order to get the other off of their center of balance and take the dominant position.
    After several minutes of rolling in the pit, Adams made Gaetz tap.
    The contestants had to get cleaned up and dressed to the nines in their Army service uniforms, because the third day was the board. Each contestant was tested on their military knowledge while maintaining their discipline and communicating their answers effectively in front of a panel of senior noncommissioned officers.
    “The board was to not only to gauge knowledge but also to gauge professionalism and maintaining bearing under stress,” said Gaetz. “I was ready for it.”
    Through the hard work and determination, Gaetz secured enough points to come out on top and earned the a spot as a competitor for the 32nd Army Air and Missile Command’s Blackjack Warrior Week Competition, a division-wide competition, in July.
    “I didn’t expect to win,” said Gaetz. “I volunteered to do something fun. Winning was coincidental.”



    Date Taken: 05.17.2017
    Date Posted: 06.12.2017 18:07
    Story ID: 237589
    Location: FORT HOOD, TX, US 
    Hometown: COLUMBUS, GA, US
    Hometown: MADISON, WI, US

    Web Views: 29
    Downloads: 0