'Best Warrior' Soldiers Draw Knowledge From Competition
Sgt. Victor Berlus, Eighth U.S. Army Korea, conducts a Detainee Operations scenario Oct. 2 during the Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills event at the 2008 Department of the Army NCO/Soldier of the Year Competition at Fort Lee, Va.

In a competition that tasks Soldiers in all things warrior, one expects infantrymen and rangers. But in pursuit of the 2008 "Best Warrior" title, Sept. 28 - Oct. 3 at Fort Lee, Va., there were competitors who worked behind desks, dispensed pills, sat behind machines in dark rooms or took care of man's best friend.

U.S. Army Medical Command's Staff Sgt. Julian Wiggins, an animal care technician, keeps military working dogs healthy at home and downrange. While one doesn't normally equate vet techs as warriors, Wiggins stands out.

"I'm not a typical vet tech either," Wiggins said. "The main mission of my job is making sure the explosive, drug and patrol dogs are safe and healthy. We get to deploy downrange, and when we're downrange, we make sure they stay healthy. If something happens to them, we're the ones who fix them up."

Wiggins said he considers his job vital for combat operations.

"Those working dogs - they sniff out the explosives and they save a lot of lives downrange," he said. "As long as we keep them healthy, we save lives."

Being trained in the aspects of being a warrior should be on the mind of every Soldier, Wiggins said.

"Because this (competition) is an everyday task of a warrior no matter what (military occupational specialty) you are, you can be downrange in Iraq and these things come up," said Wiggins. "Just because you're a vet tech or just because you're a cook, you still need to know how to shoot a weapon and you need to know how to defend yourself if something happens. So these drills are very important."

Also from the U.S. Army Medical Command, Spc. Daniel Farrier is a pharmacy technician. Farrier said his job is taking care of Soldiers and their Families.

"I provide the medical coverage for Soldiers when they are home; when Soldiers deploy downrange, I make sure that I take care of their Families, and I take care of retirees on a daily basis," he said. "I think that's what contributes to the Army's overall mission."

Developing leadership skills was a major motivator for Farrier.

"I got involved with the 'Best Warrior' competition when my NCOs were encouraging me to better myself and develop my leadership," Farrier said. "When I saw the Soldier of the Month competition, I got on that, I performed my best, and my NCOs just encouraged me to keep pursuing that dream."

Soldiers should ensure they are trained in all of the aspects of being a warrior, regardless of one's job, said Farrier.

"All Soldiers train and all Soldiers fight - it doesn't matter where you are in Iraq," said Farrier. "IEDs can happen at any time, you can be attacked by insurgents at any given time and it's important that all Soldiers understand the basic common tasks, battle drills and know how to live by the warrior ethos, so they can represent in that time of need."

As a human resources specialist, Sgt. Victor Berlus, from U.S. Eighth Army, Korea, sits behind a desk most of the day processing paperwork for Soldiers.

"Primarily, our job is taking care of all the Soldiers when they are going on leave or they have certain actions to process," Berlus said. "Also, we take care of incoming and outgoing Soldiers by making sure they have the proper documentation and they have everything they need to receive them in their new unit."

Berlus became involved in the 'Best Warrior' competition as a way to keep up on his training.

"I am all about taking every opportunity you possibly can and it's a good thing to be able to have the opportunity to compete at things like this, and go to such training," he said. "It's a great opportunity - regardless winning or not; all the new things I learned during the training - it would be a big difference regardless of my MOS because I am prepared for the battlefield."

Staff Sgt. Eric Przybylski, National Capital Region, is a finance technician, who believes the "Warrior First" ethos. Przybylski said regardless of MOS, everyone is responsible for fighting when the time comes.

"Everyone fights along side each other," said Przybylski. "A finance guy can find themselves in a Brigade Combat Team just as easily as they can find themselves in a finance job along side of a bunch of Civilians. Everyone has got to be prepared for the same mission, the warfighting mission."

While Przybylski appreciates the competitive nature of "Best Warrior," he also believes it offers a unique training opportunity for all involved.

"It's important we not only take this as a competition but also as a training event," he said. "This is a really squared away opportunity to get training that some of us normally wouldn't receive back home. It's good to take this training and apply back at our own units with our Soldiers."

As an air traffic controller, Staff Sgt. Stanley Black, U.S. Army Europe, doesn't spend most of his days training for war. But he chose his job to support the war.

"Air traffic control provides for the safe, orderly and expeditious flow of air traffic - that includes rotary wing aircraft and fixed wing aircraft," Black said. "I enlisted in the Army Oct. 2, 2001, after having completed one year of ROTC scholarship at Slippery Rock University, Pa. After the Sept. 11 attacks, I decided I didn't want to wait another three years before I could join the fight so I enlisted on the second of October to provide air traffic control services so as to play my part to ensure those type of attacks never happened again."

Providing strong leadership for the Soldiers under him was a strong motivation for Black.

"My initial desire when I began these competitions was to gain a higher level of technical and tactical knowledge," Black said. "The competition I've participated in leading up this competition, and even this competition - it challenges Soldiers at basic soldiering skills and my goal now is to leave this competition with a high standard of performance and knowledge, so that I can return to my unit as an asset and help train those younger Soldiers and help prepare them for combat."

Although his primary job involves monitoring aircraft, Black knows that the tests of "Best Warrior" are designed to challenge his ability as a Soldier.

"The competition measures a Soldier's knowledge and proficiency on all of the warrior tasks and battle drills," he said. "Those are not MOS specific, not religion specific, they are not gender specific - they are the expectations of every single man and woman serving in the U.S. Army and this competition allows Soldiers the opportunity to be evaluated and critiqued on their level of knowledge and proficiency."

In a competition with such diverse events as a board appearance to the combatives, it's only fitting that the competitors be diverse as well.

Page last updated Wed October 8th, 2008 at 14:54