FORT HUNTER LIGGETT, Calif. – As most of America celebrated Valentine’s Day with their loved ones, Army Reserve soldiers with the 351st Civil Affairs Command did what they love to do best; being soldiers.
In the heart of wine country, instead of sipping wine and sampling cheese, 19 of the best Soldiers throughout the command participated in the 351st CACOM Best Warrior Competition here from Feb. 11-14, 2014.
Changing things from years past, the Warriors began the competition German style— by competing in a two-day test for the German Armed Forces Badge for Military Proficiency. The competitors took part in seven different categories leading up to a possible qualification badge and certificate for the GAFB.
They swam 100 meters in uniform, conducted an 11x10 meter shuttle sprint, a 1,000-meter run, a flexed-armed-hang chin up, a 9mm pistol qualification and a 12-kilometer road march with a 33-pound rucksack. Upon meeting the standards, they were awarded either the bronze, silver or gold badge. “Combining the GAFB with the BWC makes it a lot tougher,” said Spc. Lester Amburgey of the 425th Civil Affairs Battalion, based in Encino, Calif. “We have a lot less rest and lot more to do. It keeps us on our toes.
“We definitely got a lot of stuff done with the short amount of time that we have been here,” added Amburgey who won the 351st BWC in 2012 and 2013.
Day three started off with the competitors participating in another 12-kilometer road march, only this time it was a mystery event. The competitors rushed to four different stations where they answered military history and Army regulation questions.
After a quick lunch, the competitors headed to the land navigation course where the elevation ranged from 1,000 feet to 1,500 feet. Once again, the soldiers traveled over 12 kilometers finding points during day and at night.
The long days and long roads brought some aching feet.
“I wanted to challenge myself physically and mentally,” said Sgt. Patrick Giles of the 425th Civil Affairs Battalion. “I think it’s a good experience. The events have been fun and challenging. I really like having an opportunity to know other people from our commands as well.”
While most competitions start with the Army Physical Fitness Test on day one, the 351st competition had the APFT on the final day of the competition, followed by a Command Sergeant Major Oral Board.
During the awards ceremony at the Mission San Antonio, Command Sgt. Maj. Mark Martello, the Command Sergeant Major of the 351st, announced Staff Sgt. Kristopher Stallard of the 426th Civil Affairs Battalion (Airborne), located in Upland, Calif., as the Noncommissioned Officer of the Year and Spc. Keegan Carlson of the 440th Civil Affairs Battalion, based in Colorado Springs, Colo., as the Soldier of the Year.
“It was a surprise to me! I am honored just to be here and to get this opportunity,” said Stallard who competed last year. “Competition was tough this year, like last year. With the addition of the GAFB being the part of the BWC, there was no clear defined winner for the entire time. It could have gone either way.”
Carlson attributed his success to his fellow competitors.
“Spc. Amburgey pushed me the entire competition. He is a great competitor and he pushed me to be where I am at now.”
“I based everything on the cardio. If your muscles and your heart can’t keep up then your mind will be weak, so I did the best that I could in everything; study when I had time, and I made sure that I was ready all around,” added Carlson.
Last year Sgt. 1st Class Jason Manella won the 351st Noncommissioned Officer of the Year title and went beyond most people’s expectations to become the Department of the Army Noncommissioned Officer of the Year.
“I am going to build my knowledge with Sgt. 1st Class Manella,” said Stallard “I want to use his knowledge to my advantage to progress to the next level. Just be prepared, go the extra mile, spend the extra hour to do the necessary studying to get physically prepared.”
Stallard and Carlson will compete in the U.S. Army Civil & Psychological Operations Command (Airborne) Best Warrior Competition to be held in April. They will compete against 14 other Soldiers from the other three CACOM’s, two Psychological Operations Groups, 1st Training Brigade, and the Headquarters for the right to represent USACAPOC(A) at the Army Reserve competition this summer.