• Army Reserve soldiers of the 351st Civil Affairs Command participate in the ruck march portion of the German Armed Forces Badge for Military Proficiency Test here at Fort Hunter Liggett, Calif., Feb. 12, 2014.  Soldiers had to carry a 33-pound rucksack and walk as much as 12 kilometers in less than two hours to possibly earn a gold badge.

    Best Warrior ruck march at Fort Hunter Liggett

    Army Reserve soldiers of the 351st Civil Affairs Command participate in the ruck march portion of the German Armed Forces Badge for Military Proficiency Test here at Fort Hunter Liggett, Calif., Feb. 12, 2014. Soldiers had to carry a 33-pound rucksack...

  • Army Reserve soldiers from the 351st Civil Affairs Command participate in the qualification for the German Armed Forces Badge for Military Proficiency here at Fort Hunter Liggett, Calif., Feb. 11, 2014.  The 100-meter swim was the first evaluation for the soldiers who had to swim the entire distance in less than four minutes.

    Best Warrior swimming at Fort Hunter Liggett

    Army Reserve soldiers from the 351st Civil Affairs Command participate in the qualification for the German Armed Forces Badge for Military Proficiency here at Fort Hunter Liggett, Calif., Feb. 11, 2014. The 100-meter swim was the first evaluation for...

  • Staff Sgt. David Beede of the 358th Civil Affairs Brigade participates in the ruck march portion of the German Armed Forces Badge for Military Proficiency Test here at Fort Hunter Liggett, Calif., Feb. 12, 2014.  Soldiers had to carry a 33-pound rucksack and walk as much as 12 kilometers in less than two hours to possibly earn a gold badge.  Beebe is also competing in the 351st Civil Affairs Command Best Warrior Competition.

    Best Warrior ruck march at Fort Hunter Liggett

    Staff Sgt. David Beede of the 358th Civil Affairs Brigade participates in the ruck march portion of the German Armed Forces Badge for Military Proficiency Test here at Fort Hunter Liggett, Calif., Feb. 12, 2014. Soldiers had to carry a 33-pound...

  • Army Reserve soldiers of the 351st Civil Affairs Command participate in the ruck march portion of the German Armed Forces Badge for Military Proficiency Test here at Fort Hunter Liggett, Calif., Feb 12 2014.  Soldiers had to carry a 33-pound rucksack and walk as much as 12 kilometers in less than two hours to possibly earn a gold badge.

    Ruck march at Fort Hunter Liggett

    Army Reserve soldiers of the 351st Civil Affairs Command participate in the ruck march portion of the German Armed Forces Badge for Military Proficiency Test here at Fort Hunter Liggett, Calif., Feb 12 2014. Soldiers had to carry a 33-pound rucksack...

  • Army Reserve soldiers of the 351st Civil Affairs Command participate in the pistol qualification portion of the German Armed Forces Badge for Military Proficiency Test here at Fort Hunter Liggett, Calif., Feb. 12, 2014.  Soldiers had to hit six out of six in three different positions to possibly earn a gold badge.

    Best Warrior pistol qualification at Fort Hunter Liggett

    Army Reserve soldiers of the 351st Civil Affairs Command participate in the pistol qualification portion of the German Armed Forces Badge for Military Proficiency Test here at Fort Hunter Liggett, Calif., Feb. 12, 2014. Soldiers had to hit six out of...

  • Sgt. 1st Class Jason Manella, an Army Reserve civil affairs specialist with the 445th Civil Affairs Battalion, is the Department of the Army's 2013 Best Warrior NCO. He competed with 11 other warriors for the title at Fort Lee, Va., after winning at the U.S. Army Civil Affairs & Psychological Operations Command (Airborne) and Army Reserve levels. His first win on the quest was at Fort Hunter Liggett, in the 351st Civil Affairs Command's Best Warrior.

    SFC Jason Manella

    Sgt. 1st Class Jason Manella, an Army Reserve civil affairs specialist with the 445th Civil Affairs Battalion, is the Department of the Army's 2013 Best Warrior NCO. He competed with 11 other warriors for the title at Fort Lee, Va., after winning at...

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: be soldiers.

In the heart of Central California 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 a 12-kilometer road march mystery event. They rushed to four different stations where they answered military history and Army regulation questions.

After a quick lunch, they headed to a land navigation course with elevations from 1,000 to 1,500 feet. Once again, the soldiers traveled over 12 kilometers to find points during day and in the dark.

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, 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, 351st Civil Affairs Command Sgt. Maj. Mark Martello announced Staff Sgt. Kristopher Stallard of the 426th Civil Affairs Battalion (Airborne) in Upland, Calif., as the Noncommissioned Officer of the Year and Spc. Keegan Carlson of the 440th Civil Affairs Battalion 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, 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. He joined competitors here this year as well, as an observer and supporter.

"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.

Page last updated Thu February 20th, 2014 at 00:00