FORT MCCOY, WI, UNITED STATES
FORT MCCOY, Wis. - In the dense woods of Fort McCoy, Wis., long before the sun rises, a high-pitched whistle screeches in the distance and breaks the calm silence. Boom! A rocket simulator explodes echoing off the green Army tents nestled between dense foliage.
This is how 25 of the Army Reserve’s “Best Warriors” woke up for a 10-kilometer ruck march during the 2010 Best Warrior Competition, July 28.
“I liked the flash bangs. That’s a good alarm clock,” said Staff Sgt. Jason R. Fiedler, a construction operator and competitor from Valparaiso, Ind. “I’m not much of a morning person usually.”
Though the ruck march was a scheduled event, there was a surprise for the competitors because the Army Reserve’s senior enlisted advisor, Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Schultz, was up early wearing body armor and carrying a full ruck sack.
“I figured just get out here this morning, be up early, lead from the front and just walk in their same shoes,” explained Schultz. “As the senior non-commissioned officer of the Army Reserve, it’s my charge to be responsible for training, but its also to motivate from the front. That’s why I’m here. It’s an honor to be out here with these guys.”
As the Soldiers ran from the starting line with more than 50 pounds of gear on their bodies, Schultz also took off toward the finish.
“Just like going into combat, you’re going to have to wear all your gear,” said Schultz. “All these Soldiers are winners because they’ll take this training back to their units.”
Throughout the competition, both NCOs and junior enlisted Soldiers frequently remarked that they will bring the tasks and training back to their units to help build a stronger Army Reserve.
“It’s not just physical or how smart you are, its how good you are as an all-round Soldier,” said Spc. Robert A. Busch, a combat medic and competitor from Lexington, Ky., assigned to the 979th Engineer Company. “It’s great training that shows how physically demanding and mentally stressing it could be over there in Afghanistan or Iraq.”
Though some contestants like Busch have not yet been called for deployment, the competition focused on real-life situations that Soldiers face daily in the war on terrorism. Events for the weeklong competition included a physical training test, day and night weapons qualification and land navigation, an obstacle course, and sleeping in a forward operating base with minimal comforts.
At about the halfway point in the ruck march, Soldiers were limping and sweating, but pushing on at a constant pace.
“Just finish. One foot in front of another,” said Busch. “You gotta be motivated and want to do it ... The command sgt. maj. actually pushed me and it was great to see him out there.”
During the march as Shultz passed different Soldiers, he said, “Hooah!” as encouragement to help push each competitor on.
“As Soldiers, we need to focus on fitness 365 days a year,” added Shultz as sweat began to soak his uniform. “We really need to kick that up a level and the only way you’re going to do that as a Soldier is get outside and hit the pavement. That’s what we’re doing this morning and that’s why it’s motivating.”
For some Soldiers, motivation can be the key between quitting and pushing on with blister-covered feet.
“You never really know quite how your feet are going to be when you start a road march until you get that first 10 minutes in,” said Fiedler, assigned to the 310th Expeditionary Sustainment Command representing the 416th Theater Engineer Command. “Then you know what you failed to do or prepared well to do.”
One of the biggest factors for Fiedler was the weight of the gear, but he said it didn’t stop him from finishing the march with a positive attitude.
When the competitors turned the final bend, the fog cleared enough to reveal the blue finish tent in the distance. But before the cheering crowds and ticking red clock could be reached, they were greeted by a roaring Schultz.
“Let’s go! Almost there,” he exclaimed from the side of the road after finishing and going back for the rest of the competitors.
Though Schultz didn’t have the same effect as a simulated rocket, he did prod a few Soldiers to pick up the pace and cross the finish line with smiles on their tired and dirty faces, yet ready for the next event.
||FORT MCCOY, WI, US
This work, Army Reserve Senior Enlisted Advisor motivates, rucks with the “Best Warriors”, by MSG Mark Burrell, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.