By Cpt. Josef Garcia
TF LUMBERJACK HHC Commander
KANDAHAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – As the weather heats up on Kandahar Airfield (KAF), so does the competition amongst peers. All of the participants are LUMBERJACK soldiers and many have worked hand-in-hand on combat missions. However, make no mistake, each soldier is here to win. Gen. Douglas MacArthur once said, “Upon the fields of friendly strife are sown the seeds that upon other fields, on other days, will bear the fruits of victory.” As world class professional soldiers, the LUMBERJACKS need fierce competition to stay at peak performance.
The competition identifies one winner as the soldier of the year for E1 through E4 competitors, and also the sergeant of the year for E5 through E6 competitors. The competition consists of seven events. Each event is scored separately, and then added together to form the final score. The winner must be the best all-around soldier or sergeant.
The first event took place in the early morning hours. The Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) has three areas of emphasis. The Soldier first does two minutes of push-ups. Then, after a short break, the soldier completes two minutes of sit-ups. Finally, the Soldier runs two miles for time. The highest score that can be achieved is 100 points in each event for a total of 300 points.
The second event was an M16 qualification range. Each soldier fires 20 bullets from a prone, supported position. Then, the soldier fires 10 bullets from a prone, unsupported position. Finally, the soldier fires a final 10 bullets while in a kneeling position. The total score is cumulative targets hit from all 40 bullets.
The third event tested the soldier’s knowledge of individual weapons. The competitors were evaluated on the speed and accuracy to disassemble and assemble each weapon. The weapons included the M249 machinegun, and the M9 pistol.
The fourth event was a combination of visual signaling techniques and proper individual search techniques. Visual signaling techniques are used when no voice or radio communication is available, and as a secondary means to confirm radio communication. The need to keep silent while on a patrol may require the use of visual techniques to communicate important information to the rest of the soldiers.
Conducting a proper search on individuals can be difficult. Soldiers do not want to be over aggressive, but at the same time must keep a good posture of security and control over the situation. Soldiers want to search an individual thoroughly, but should also be aware of dangerous material possibly carried by the individual.
The fifth event consisted of radio communications and requesting medical evacuations. The communications should be clear and secure. If an important message is not received correctly, not received at all, or also received by the enemy, chaos ensues. Much of the information transmitted on the radio has effects on more than just those communicating the message. Soldiers use radios to call up reports or request help. Radios are especially helpful to request a medical evacuation by helicopter when crucial time passes with a soldiers life in the balance.
The sixth event focused on medical abilities. On the battlefield, the first person to help an injured soldier is usually another soldier. This is called “first aid.” First aid concentrates on evaluating what is wrong with the injured soldier, and then taking the most immediate course of action to help the soldier until medical personnel arrive. Soldiers learn how to stop bleeding, and help another Ssoldier continue breathing. Of course, these skills are also used for anyone our soldiers find in need. For civilian car accidents in remote areas, our soldiers may be the first to arrive on scene. The soldiers practice and perfect a talent for saving lives.
Finally, the seventh event is a verbal knowledge test in front of a board of seven senior enlisted leaders from the battalion. For this competition, two sergeants major and five first sergeants compiled a laundry list of rigorous questions based on Army Regulation and over a hundred years of combined military service. The board not only tests the knowledge of the soldier, but also the soldier’s confidence and demeanor.
The competition was very close, and all the competitors put forth a valiant effort. Each soldier would be a great representation of the battalion. However, only one Soldier can be this year’s soldier of the year, and only one sergeant. The winners of the competition were Specialist Jason Heiney from the 591st Sapper Company, and Staff Sergeant Donato Mercury from the 181st Vertical Company.