BABIL, Iraq - Soldiers from across Iraq's United States Division-South converged on Contingency Operating Site Kalsu April 22 to compete for the title of "best in the division."

Hosted by the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, the Arrowhead Stakes competition saw 12 Soldiers from the 36th Infantry Division "Arrowheads," 3rd ACR, and 1st Cavalry Division giving their all to claim the crown.

"We held this competition in order to recognize outstanding leaders throughout the enlisted ranks," said Master Sgt. Reinaldo Vaillant, the primary coordinator of the competition assigned to Regimental Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, originally from Humacao, Puerto Rico. "An event like this represents the results of the training and mentorship senior leaders invest in junior Soldiers."

In the dark morning hours, with rain falling and a fierce wind blowing, the contenders began making their way through the timed course that wrapped around the entire perimeter of the base. Along the route Soldiers struggled through eight obstacles, beginning with simple push-ups and pull-ups, and then going directly into a nine phase Army Physical Fitness Test.

"The APFT challenge was definitely the hardest part," said Staff Sgt. Luis A. Barron, a chemical specialist with Company B, 36th ID, originally from Texarkana, Texas. "Even if you take a good break between phases the exercises will still burn you."

The APFT portion included a tire flip, ammo can carry, bench press, military press and a rope climb over a concrete wall, and several other obstacles. Smoke canisters were discharged to create an additional challenge to an already harsh course.

Soldiers attacked a live-fire weapons range where they engaged targets with the M9 pistol, and M4 rifle. The Soldiers fired from stationary positions and while moving toward their targets.

"I was tired and completely covered in mud from the stations I had just been through," said Spc. Michael L. Valadez, a cavalry scout with Troop L, 3rd Squadron, 3rd ACR, and a native of Houston. "My arms were shaking at the M9 range but I still shot pretty well. I just kept telling myself to slow down and take deep breaths."

Sgt. Aquila Crigger, a motor transport operator with Company F, 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, originally from Comstock Park, Mich., was the only female Soldier to compete in the event. She said she found the competition's forced run to be the greatest challenge.

"I think I would have done a lot better on the run if it weren't for the conditions we had," said Crigger. "The mud and the wind made it really hard."

The event also featured a mystery event that required the contenders to make a series of shots on a basketball court for points. Once the Soldiers completed this event they had to appear before board members and were tested on their general military knowledge. This marked the end of the competition.

A dinner was held for the competitors to socialize, recognize each other's efforts, and to congratulate two Soldiers who would stand triumphant after the day's trials. Staff Sgt. Nixon L. Pacheco of Battery R, 3rd Squadron, 3rd ACR, achieved first place in the non commissioned officer category and Spc. Matthew J. Coble of Medical Troop, Regimental Support Squadron, 3rd ACR, swept the junior enlisted class.

"Soldiers walk away from these types of events with a very valuable experience," said Vaillant. "They get pushed to breaking points they didn't know they had. When they complete the test, and are successful, it's a testament to their physical fortitude and their mental toughness."

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