PENSACOLA, Fla. - In the midst of the surf, the sand, and spring break, civil affairs soldiers gutted it out during a grueling competition that pitted each against the best- themselves. The 350th Civil Affairs Command in Pensacola, Fla., ran its annual Best Warrior Competition challenging 16 of the best soldiers in the command against each other for the chance to represent the 350th at the United States Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations (Airborne) Best Warrior Competition in Fort Bragg, N.C. in May. Competitors participated in a number of events, including Army combatives, an obstacle course, a 10k ruck march along the shore of Pensacola and a night land navigation course at Eglin Air Force Base, among other events that tested their soldiering skills.
After losing out last year by a single point, Sgt. Andrew J. Paulsen came back with victory in mind and clenched this year's noncommissioned officer category. "This was my second year in a row coming here, I guess it took me two times to take first place," Paulson said jokingly, "It came down to the last event, which was the oral board, all the NCO's put forth a fantastic effort and it was great." Bravo Company 1st Sgt. Maria Bengel of the 413th said she was particularly proud of Paulson because he had been one of her soldiers prior to accepting a transfer to Delta Company in Abilene, Texas in order to help stand up the newly created company. "I think he's an inspiration to his company, since he is a part of a new company, it's going to help them develop and give them something to aspire to," Bengel said.
Paulsen is glad to have won the competition and is ready for the next one at Fort Bragg. "These competitions are great, it just makes for a great environment, it's everything that we love about being a soldier, we get down, we get dirty, we ruck march, we do land navigation, we do weapons qualification, it's the basics of soldiering," Paulsen said.
Spc. Zachary A.M. Broz, a civil affairs specialist with the 350th CACOM Headquarters and Headquarters Company won the junior enlisted category, but he didn't think his competitors made it easy, "The competitors were really fierce and all the scores were really close all the way to the very end, which shows the handwork the other soldiers put in," Broz said.
The competition had another effect on Broz, it helped him as a soldier, "This competition has opened up my eyes and showed me what I forgot, these are things I need to know, I can't go down range and not know this stuff, and now that I know it, I want to keep this knowledge," Broz said.
Master Sgt. Stephen Gray, Broz' first sergeant at the 350th CACOM, credits his success to his dedication in wearing the uniform, "Broz has a phenomenal work ethic, his success is largely due to the amount of his personal time that he spends doing his physical training and always, always volunteering; taking on whatever mission we can task him with, he's definitely, as we would say, in the fight. He puts a lot of his own personal time into wearing the uniform," Grey said.
Paulson and Gray will both compete in the USACAPOC (A) Best Warrior Competition in May for the opportunity to represent USACAPOC at the U.S. Army Reserve Competition that will be held this summer.