FORT DIX, NJ, UNITED STATES
By Staff Sgt. Mark Burrell
FORT DIX, N.J. – Sgt. David Rider quickly ducked into a dense thicket of thorns and bushes. Moving deceptively fast while wearing body armor and a helmet, he stopped for a moment to shout back to his trainer.
“I’m going to poke my head in here real quick,” he said. “That other point is a little too far off to be confident about it.”
Rider, a combat medic practical nurse and 2010 Army Reserve Best Warrior Competition winner, quickly disappeared back into the dense forests of Fort Dix, N.J., to continue searching for his points during a land navigation course.
The 2010 Army Reserve Best Warriors, enlisted and noncommissioned officer, are spending a week at Fort Dix training for the Department of the Army Best Warrior Competition. There they will be pitted against their National Guard and Active Duty counterparts in Fort Lee, Va.
The four-day competition is slated for Oct. 17-22 and will consist of multiple events to determine the enlisted and NCO 2010 Best Warrior. The events cover a variety of warrior tasks such as rifle marksmanship, combatives, ruck marches and any other physical and mental tests of endurance.
“At the Department of the Army competition we don’t know what they’re going to be throwing at us,” said Rider, a native of Strongsville, Ohio, assigned to the 256th Combat Support Hospital. “It could be anything, so you have to be well-rehearsed and confident. That’s what we’ve been doing and that’s our mission here, just to get more experience and build confidence at every aspect of being a soldier.”
The soldiers mostly receive instruction from Army Reserve drill sergeants attached to Regional Training Center - East. These drill sergeants are experts at warrior tasks and train deploying troops at Fort Dix year-round, instilling confidence in their basic Soldier skills.
“Confidence is really important at that level [Department of the Army],” continued Rider. “When you’re wandering through the woods, you don’t want to be questioning if that’s your point or this is your point. You want to be confident.”
Rider emerged from the thicket with sweat on his face and a penetrating glare.
“This is the right point over here,” he stated. “I just wanted to make absolute sure before we headed back.”
After finishing the course, Rider said that there are a lot of people supporting him and that he wants to prove to them that he’s up for any task the judges might throw at him.
“A lot of people associate the Reserves as weekend warriors,” said Rider. “They show up one weekend a month, two weeks a year and play Army. But that’s not the case. We’re as tactical and technical as active duty soldiers and can be called up at anytime.”
Spc. Joshua McDowell, a health care specialist from Omaha, Neb., assigned to the 7246th Installation Medical Support Unit and the enlisted USAR winner, agreed with Rider.
“I hope to portray the Army Reserves as having soldiers with integrity, a good work ethic and a high level of competence and confidence,” McDowell said after completing the land navigation course shortly after Rider.
“There’s a mix of excitement that can be palpable sometimes, because everybody’s watching you and your mistakes are really highlighted in an event like this,” explained McDowell. “In order to survive in a situation like this, you really have to take it minutes at a time.”
Since the results of the USAR competition last month, these warriors have been using each minute to prepare their minds and bodies for the upcoming challenges. So far, they have been training on weapons, combatives, prepping each other with general military knowledge questions and this day’s land navigation course.
“As far as today’s course, it went well,” said McDowell. “There were definitely some obstacles and it was definitely a little thick in there. I think the course attacked me more than I attacked it. You just stick with the training and you use all the tools you have.”
Though their roads to the 2010 Best Warrior competition have been filled with similar obstacles, these soldiers have lowered their shoulders pushed through the bramble to continually surprise their competition.
“I wonder sometimes. I don’t know if they know what’s coming to them,” said Rider with a crooked smile on his face. “I think they’re going to have a bunch of outstanding NCOs coming to compete. I don’t know if they realize they got the best of the Army Reserves still training super hard to come kick some butt out there.”
After completing the land navigation course with hours to spare, these soldiers hard training will be evident next month. They’re getting ready for the Department of the Army competition, but is the competition going to be ready for these Army Reserve soldiers? The world will find out next Oct. 22 at Fort Lee.
||FORT DIX, NJ, US
This work, USAR Best Warriors ready to showcase tools next month, by MSG Mark Burrell, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.