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    Army Guard’s 'Best Warriors' tackle Department of the Army Best Warrior competition

    Army Guard’s 'Best Warriors' tackle Department of the Army Best Warrior competition

    Photo By Sgt. 1st Class Darron Salzer | Army Sgt. Matthew Howard, left, an artillery crewmember with Battery C, 2nd Battalion,...... read more read more



    Story by Sgt. Darron Salzer 

    National Guard Bureau

    FORT LEE, Va. – The Army National Guard’s Soldier and noncommissioned officer of the year competed this week against the best-of-the-best from each major Army command in the 2012 Department of the Army Best Warrior Competition here.

    Army Sgt. Mark Fuggiti, a supply specialist with Company C, Recruiting and Retention Battalion, Pennsylvania Army National Guard and Army Sgt. Matthew Howard, an artillery crew member with C Battery, 2nd Battalion, 142nd Fires Brigade, Arkansas Army National Guard, went up against 22 other competitors during the sergeant major of the Army’s four-day competition.

    “This is the first time I’ve competed at the Best Warrior competition … and it’s a huge honor,” said Howard. “It’s just great and … it’s really hard to explain, but to be the one person here that’s representing the NCO side of the [Army] National Guard is just an honor.”

    Fuggiti, who was promoted to sergeant in the weeks leading up to the competition, agreed.

    “The training that we received here has been excellent,” he said. “I overheard somebody else mentioning this event as the Super Bowl of Army training, and that couldn’t be [truer].”

    He said the competitors fully understand it is from this “Super Bowl” of training that the best of them will rise.

    “I think that is what the sergeant major of the Army is down here to find: the best all-around soldier and noncommissioned officer that is the most adaptable,” he said.

    On the second day of competition, competitors were unexpectedly the main event as approximately 1,400 students at Fort Lee gathered to cheer them on during their physical fitness test.

    “That was pretty exciting,” Fuggiti said. “As we were coming down to the post field house at 4:30 the other morning we headed over to Williams Stadium and as we looked up into the stands we saw about 1,400 students in training there. It was a little bit of pressure to perform under, but it was definitely an exciting event.”

    Other surprises throughout the competition included awakening to a mock mass casualty scenario where Soldiers had to assess, evacuate, and treat a mock casualty involved in a shooting on post.

    Fuggiti said it was this type of “on your feet” training that he hopes to bring back to his unit in Pennsylvania.

    A lot of the events at the competition involved scenarios that most Soldiers do not get the opportunity to experience, he said.

    “That is something that I am going to bring back to Pennsylvania, back to my soldiers that I train … and teach them [with].”

    That also means going an additional step to customize the scenarios to the training environment back in Pennsylvania.

    “[While] we will not be able to utilize the scenarios in the manner that they had them here, we will be able to put together lanes where they can run through and have to think on their feet, and adapt more as opposed to just training to the book,” he said.

    He added that going through the competition and getting a firsthand experience will better enable him to challenge his Soldiers later on.

    “Being able to go through it and experience it firsthand, know what parts gave me trouble – the fear of the unknown, the having to change on the spot – those are things that I can introduce into the training and introduce that stress into training to challenge my Soldiers,” he said.

    To face the challenges ahead of them in the competition, however, Howard and Fuggiti had their own mental strategy.

    “Coming in to this competition with this level of competitor, you are not going to be the best in every category – it’s impossible,” Fuggiti said. “At some of the lower competition levels you might be, but up here there is always going to be someone better than you at something.”

    And that’s where being able to stay resilient becomes key, said Fuggitti.

    “It becomes a resiliency thing and you have to keep driving forward after each event, knowing that you are still in the competition and that it’s an overall Soldier and NCO that they are looking for.”

    That, in part, ties into the Warrior Ethos of never accepting defeat, said Fuggitti.

    “A lot of it is heart, just really the desire to compete and the desire to win and push through even when you don’t want to,” said Howard. “Looking back at [the Army Guard’s competition at]Fort Benning, it was an enjoyable time, but it was very physically demanding and this is similar and you’ve got to make the best of it.

    “I’m trying to enjoy my time here and enjoy the experience. It’s a once in a lifetime experience for me,” he said.

    Like Howard, Fuggiti also drew upon his time at Fort Benning and the Army Guard’s competition.

    “They definitely prepared us,” Fuggiti said, of those that organized the Army Guard’s Best Warrior Competition.

    And after going through the Army Guard’s competition—which many Army Guard leaders and competitors consider to be the toughest competition out there—the relationship amongst those Soldiers who have come out on top is often stronger.

    “The relationship between me and Sgt. Fuggiti has been great,” Howard said. “We exchanged some contact information and have been in contact with each other from the end of the [Army] National Guard [competition] all the way through here.”

    And because of that, the two saw themselves as a team, rather than individual competitors.

    “We’re really the [Army] National Guard team and that’s how we look at it too,” he said. “We’re constantly back and forth with one another and double-checking on one another.”

    After the DA level competition, Fuggiti said he hopes to take away as much as he can for himself and future competitors.

    “I’d like to take all of the knowledge I’ve learned here back to my unit at home and share it with the people there,” he said. “Perhaps I’d like to be a sponsor next year in this competition because I think it’d be really neat to see and support Soldiers in their quest for this … with some of the knowledge that I’ve gained.”

    But at the end of the day, he’s simply grateful to be where he is.

    “The best thing about putting on the uniform every day is being able to serve the American people and it’s a great sense of pride just to be here,” he said. “It’s an honor to be here and I’m grateful for the opportunity.”



    Date Taken: 10.18.2012
    Date Posted: 10.19.2012 08:33
    Story ID: 96426
    Location: FORT LEE, VA, US

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