PSYOP group picks Best Warriors at Fort Hunter Liggett
April 25, 2013
FORT HUNTER LIGGETT, Calif. -- How would you like waking up before the sun even rises and participating in a mentally, physically and emotionally grueling day, with eight events running back-to-back for 15 hours straight?
That's exactly what Army Reserve soldiers of the 7th Psychological Operations Group faced while competing in the group's Best Warrior competition here.
"I know the competitions at the higher levels are more intense and I have to identify the individuals that are physically and mentally prepared to compete," said Command Sgt. Maj. Phillip Houseworth, command sergeant major for 7th POG, based at Moffett Field, Calif.
Competitors started the day by taking the Army Physical Fitness Test: two minutes of push-ups, two minutes of sit-ups and a two-mile run. From there, they change out of physical fitness uniforms into Army Combat Uniforms for a 10-kilometer ruck march.
For the rest of the competition, competitors have two things with them at all times: a 35-pound rucksack and their sponsor.
Unlike other best warrior competitions, where the sponsor only prepares the soldier for the events, 7th POG adds a different spin to the role of the sponsor. Aside from putting rounds down range during the weapons qualification portion and taking the APFT, sponsors participate side-by-side in each event with their competitor.
"We think it benefits the sponsors because they put so much time and effort into preparing their competitor," said 1st Sgt. Jim Diamond, first sergeant for Headquarters Support Company, 14th PSYOP Battalion and the noncommissioned officer in charge for the competition. "Also, it gives us two people that have been through the process that can then share and implement a lot of their knowledge into training at the unit level."
Once off the ruck march course, competitors are ushered into the weapons assembly area, where they assemble and conduct a functions check on six different weapon systems ranging from the 9mm pistol to the Mk 19 grenade launcher. Next up is the zero and qualification range for the M4 carbine rifle.
Without skipping a beat, competitors head for the next event, a land navigation course. Since there is no rest for the weary, competitors continue the day with more marching with their 35-pound ruck. This time, instead of a map and compass to find their way around, they use a Precision Lightweight GPS Receiver to find points. Each point brings a new test to the competitors in the form of a common task, ranging from providing first aid to reacting to indirect fire.
And if all that wasn't enough, the competitors ended the night by writing an essay.
"It was a long day," said Spc. Samuel Gonzales, a wheeled vehicle mechanic with the 17th PSYOP Battalion. "It was kind of hard to find what was in my head for a little bit. I had to take a minute to sit down and think about things, where I had my cheat sheets, try to pull information out of the back of my mind that I knew I had somewhere."
The final event, an oral board, rounded out the competition the following morning. Competitors had to fight through exhaustion from the previous day's events to maintain their mental sharpness and military bearing and prove they were indeed the best of 7th POG.
Gonzales won the Soldier category, and Staff Sgt. Michael Garza of the 304th PSYOP Company won the Noncommissioned Officer category. They will represent 7th POG at the U.S. Army Civil Affairs & Psychological Operations Command (Airborne) Best Warrior competition at Fort Bragg, N.C., April 28-May 3, 2013.