News: Reserve soldiers strive for Best Warrior
Story by Staff Sgt. Joy Dulen
FORT LEE, Va. – Twenty-four of the Army’s finest soldiers converged on Fort Lee to compete for the coveted title of Best Warrior as they engaged in a fast-paced, four-day battle in the ultimate soldier skills test, October 15-18.
The event was the 12th Annual Department of the Army Soldier and Non-commissioned Officer of the Year Best Warrior Competition, or BWC, and it brought together 12 junior enlisted soldiers and 12 noncommissioned officers, from various Army commands, to display skills vital to the success of today’s soldier.
Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Rios, a training instructor assigned to the 78th Training Battalion, 84th Training Command, and Spc. Michael Swan, a track vehicle mechanic with the 415th Chemical Brigade, 335th Signal Command (Theater), represented the United States Army Reserve Command, or USARC, in the competition and wasted no time demonstrating their abilities both on and off the battlefield.
“You train hard for this,” said the Gurley, Ala., native-Swan. “You’re working on your ruck marches to build endurance with that weight on your back. There’s a lot of lane training and medical training…and you’re working with your equipment and learning the technical aspects of everything.”
After winning the USARC-level BWC in July, Swan and Rios headed to Fort Dix, N.J., for seven weeks of intensive training and preparation for the next level. Master Sgt. Richard Long took charge of the training as USARC’s noncommissioned officer in charge of Best Warrior.
“We took both the winners and the runners-up and trained them hard for almost two months,” Long said. “We did weapons [training] once a week and we did a lot of first aid. We did mock boards constantly and specifically concentrated on physical training where we had a personal trainer come in and work with them in many areas. They weren’t weak in any one area but we just pumped them up in everything.”
Best Warrior events include a physical training test, written exam and essay, day and night land navigation, casualty evaluation, weapons marksmanship, a number of Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills, media training, a mystery event, and a board appearance.
“I have to know all the basic soldiering skills,” Rios said, “but I also show skill level two skills and knowing the role of a sergeant.”
“I know a stigma goes out to reservists, but they’re showing they’re soldiers,” Long added about the performance of his soldiers. “It’s almost harder to be a reservist because you have to do a civilian job and a military job and you have to be proficient in both. They needed to represent and show that we’re all soldiers and the same…and they’re doing an excellent job of that.”
Rios, who hails from Queens, N.Y., says winning the competition as a reservist would just make it that much sweeter.
“It would be an honor to win because it is a little bit harder to compete,” he said. “The training we get is just not as much as active duty gets.”
“This is just all part of the game,” Swan added. “It’s just awesome that we could come here. I wish there were more reservists able to represent more commands.”
The BWC winners were announced at the Association of the U.S. Army's annual meeting in Washington, D.C., a few days after the competition. Although their names weren’t called, both Rios and Swan expressed that every soldier, active duty or reservist, should strive for the challenge of Best Warrior.
“It’s a great experience because I get to compete against the best warriors in the United States Army,” Rios said. “I would tell anyone to give this a try because it tests what kind of soldier you are and the knowledge and training you’ve received throughout your military career.”
“If anyone got out here and did this, they’d love it because these competitors are outstanding,” said Swan. “These are the soldiers you want to go to war with. The soldiers you want to your left and your right.”