FORT McCOY, Wis. -- "On what day did the Civil War end'" asked Sgt. Alicia Rider. Her husband Sgt. David Rider took a minute and answered, "April 9th, 1865." "Correct," she replied.

Down the hall in the auditorium, several other pairs of Soldiers and sponsors were huddled together, reviewing current events, military history, tactical knowledge and spot-checking uniforms. The husband and wife were next in line for his board appearance, here, July 26.

Today is the second day of the 2010 Army Reserve Best Warrior Competition where the best Soldiers from commands across the Army Reserve have converged at Fort McCoy, Wis., to compete for the title of Best Warrior.

When the winners are announced Friday, the top noncommissioned officer and junior enlisted Soldier here will then move on to the Department of the Army Best Warrior Competition to be held in October. This year, however, is the first time since the Army Reserve started this competition four years ago, that a husband and wife have teamed up as competitor and sponsor.

Sponsors assist and encourage competitors prior to the event. During the week at Fort McCoy, they motivate competitors and handle administrative matters that could distract them from winning. It is only when the competitors begin graded tasks that the sponsors fade into the background and see if their assistance has paid off.

Seated together in a long hallway just outside the entrance to the board room Alicia and David, natives of Strongsville, Ohio, practiced several more questions before he is called and told to knock and enter. Command Sgt. Maj. Michael D. Schultz, the senior enlisted advisor for the Army Reserve, and several other command sergeants major wait to grill him with questions and inspect his uniform.

As David, who is assigned to B Company, 256th Combat Support Hospital in Twinsburg, Ohio, stood up and entered the board room, his wife moved down the hall to a lonely chair to wait out his board appearance.

"Preparing for this was harder than preparing our wedding because when he goes out to compete I can only support him. I can't ruck march for him and I can't help him run two seconds faster," said Alicia, who is a health care specialist assigned to the 371st Minimal Care Detachment in Twinsburg, Ohio.

David, who is also a health care specialist, met his wife during a stateside mobilization for Operation Enduring Freedom at Fort Gordon, Ga. As a practical nurse for Maxim Healthcare, David provides home care of ventilator-dependent patients.

After changing their wedding date three times due to training, the two Soldiers were married on June 3, 2010, which is also the same day they began dating years earlier. They enjoyed a nice bed and breakfast honeymoon, and three days later, he left for Air Assault school.

Alicia said, "Over time I realized what it [Best Warrior Competition] was and it was pretty impressive to find out that he was competing at his unit's soldier of the month boards and winning. I wanted to be a part of it."

Both Soldiers are attending college to earn a Bachelor of Science in nursing. She is studying at Kent State University and he is studying at the University of Akron, both in Ohio. He currently has a 4.0 grade point average despite the amount of training and preparation for this year's competition.

"We have study sessions and we go over flashcards," he said. "We also do physical training together and here she's been running all over the post taking care of things for me."

Sponsors for the competition must be ready to assist at a moment's notice to ensure the success of their Soldier. Competition will heat up as competitors begin tactical drills that will test them to the core this week.

"I knew it [the competition] was important to him," said Alicia. "I like seeing the things going on behind the scenes and not just getting the phone calls telling me what's happening. Now that I'm here I can appreciate the competition that he has and see what he's up against."

The pairing between husband and wife during the competition has been fruitful. David explained that having his wife as his sponsor allows for a more relaxing setting compared to a first sergeant and competitor pairing.

The door to the board room opened and as David came into view Alicia stood up expectantly. The couple left the board room waiting area and settled into the comfortable chairs of the building's auditorium.

"I have a lot of respect and admiration for her," he said after leaving the boardroom. "It makes me very happy to have her as my sponsor."

"This experience is strengthening our relationship because we've had more time together and we have the common bond that is the Army," she said. "If it wasn't for the Army, we never would have met."

And the board appearance' According to David, it went well. "The best board I've been to," he said.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16