News: 2012 Best Warrior Competition: Soldiers put to the test
By Sgt. Matthew E. Diehl, 203rd Public Affairs Detachment
CAMP DODGE, Iowa – The soldiers’ spirits were high despite the frigid and blustery weather with temperatures in the low 20’s. They assembled at the starting line of the two mile run portion of the Army Physical Fitness Test, which would kick off days of grueling competition.
Seven soldiers from across the 103rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) competed in the 2012 Best Warrior Competition, Nov. 13-16, at Camp Dodge, Iowa.
Participants competed in junior enlisted and noncommissioned officer categories. Both tested soldiers’ mental, physical, and psychological endurance. Pfc. Logan M. Walz, a cargo specialist from the 919th Inland Cargo Transportation Company, won the junior enlisted category. “I loved how it was just go, go, go the whole time, sometimes at three in the morning,” he said. "I've only been in the Army eight months and for me to win this means a lot.”
All soldiers competed in events ranging from combatives, land navigation, weapons assembly, military operations in urban terrain and also a formal board with Command Sergeant Majors presiding.
“This is a Department of the Army competition,” said Command Sgt. Maj Arthur J. Leak, Command Sergeant Major, 103rd ESC. “It starts at the company level and goes through the battalions and brigades. Eventually the ultimate goal is for two Soldiers to be named the warriors of the year in the enlisted and noncommissioned officer divisions.”
The event is truly for enlisted and run by enlisted as the cadre consisted of senior enlisted members of the 103rd. “This is an NCO driven competition. You will not go to any warrior event and find an Officer in Charge,” said Leak. “For best practical purposes the Officer in Charge is the highest ranking enlisted member.”
The winners of the competition have more battles in front of them. Sgt. 1st Class Anthony M. Novak, a human resource specialist from the 103rd ESC and served as the combatives referee and cadre during the event, said “the next step for the winners of the competition at Camp Dodge is to compete in the event at the 377th Theater Sustainment Command and then at the United Stated Army Reserve Command level.”
All components of the Army force are represented in the challenge. “There are soldiers from the Reserve, Guard, and active duty that ultimately will face each other in the end," said Leak. "This is a total force event."
Sgt. 1st Class Jesse Hartman, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the event spent three years as a drill sergeant and said one of the goals of the event was to push the soldiers to their physical and mental limits to simulate a wartime environment. “There is no Army regulation that covers the challenge,” said Hartman. “We have binders filled with lessons learned from previous competitions and have built on it every year.”
The soldiers didn’t get many breaks during the day. That was one of the goals of the cadre.
“We had food catered and brought to the Soldiers and cadre stayed in the barracks,” said Hartman. “We are keeping the stress up, depriving them of sleep, trying to make it more like combat. There is no lull, it is all Army all the time.”
The contestant’s maintained their professionalism despite sleep deprivation and grueling challenges with virtually no down time.
“This year's competitors far surpassed last year’s…there was more camaraderie," said Sgt. 1st Class Robert Harder, cadre for the event. "We didn’t hear a single complaint from the Soldiers the entire competition.”
The following seven soldiers made it to the finish line with hard work and determination:
• Pfc. Akeela Jovon Al-hameed 644th Regional Support Group (RSG), Fort Snelling, Minn.
• Spc. Patricia Ann Dempsey, 646th RSG, Madison, Wis.
• Spc. Cory Anthony Schmitt, 649th RSG, Cedar Rapids, Iowa
• Sgt. Francis Kojo Bour, 646th RSG, Madison, Wis.
• Sgt. Kyle Jordan Fox, 645th RSG, Southfield, Mich.
• Staff Sgt. Martin Perry Lyke, 206th RSG, Springfield, Ill.
• Pfc. Logan Michael Walz, 645th RSG, Southfield, Mich.
The combatives portion was very popular among the soldiers.
“I really enjoy the competition aspect," said Spc. Patricia Dempsey, ordnance specialist with the 646th Regional Support Group. “You grow with yourself and as a team.”
The tasks the soldiers were asked to do were not always traditional. They had to use a buddy to assemble weapons blindfolded and wrote a 500-word essay while wearing an M-40 nuclear, biological and chemical protective mask.
“These types of events are as realistic as we can get to actual combat,” said Leak. “If they can handle the pressures of this type of competition when they find themselves leaning in a foxhole downrange they know what the limits of their capabilities are. It’s important to me when you are tired in a combat situation you need to be able to find that inner strength to push through and still accomplish the mission."
Staff Sgt. Martin Lyke the winner of the NCO division said he was motivated to participate in this years challenge because he wanted to improve himself and his warrior skills. “It’s very challenging to win,” said Lyke. "It just shows a lot of the hard work I’ve done pays off."
Overall, the competition proved to be beneficial for the competitors and the cadre. “It was great to see NCO’s leading the way,” said Walz. Both Walz and Lyke will represent the 103rd ESC at the 377th TSC Best Warrior Competition in early 2013.