Soldiers ruck, repair and wrestle through the third day of Installation Management Command’s Best Wa
May 31, 2011
CAMP BULLIS, Texas -- Soldiers walked into the third day of Installation Management Command’s Best Warrior Competition, but battled their way out May 24.
In the first two days of IMCOM’s first-ever stand alone competition, the 10 noncommissioned officers and Soldiers representing their regions have already faced a written exam on Army topics, essay on fiscal responsibility, board appearance and weapons qualification.
The morning of May 24 started at 6 a.m. with a 12-mile road march carrying a 35-pound rucksack through some of south central Texas’ toughest terrain and temperatures, with a high around 80 degrees, though fortunately, no sun -- yet. Nevertheless, the heat and humidity imposed hardship on competitors more accustomed to cooler weather.
Staff Sgt. Jacob A. Brewster, IMCOM Europe NCO of the Year, pushed through to cross the finish line first with a time of two hours and 55 minutes. “You’re losing a lot of water and it gets extremely tiring. You’re just trying to make time or stay ahead of the next guy,” he said. “Once I got past mile eight, heading into the wind felt better. But by then you’re just so beat, and even though it’s flat and you have a good breeze it’s real hard to come in on time. My only goal was to come in on time and do the best I could.”
After recovering and refueling, the competitors set out to prove both brain and brawn through six stations at the warrior tasks testing component of the competition. Tasks involved reporting intelligence information; preparing a range card for a machine gun; adjusting to indirect fire, using a military map; giving first aid to a fallen comrade and calling for medical attention; transporting casualty remains; requesting medical evacuations and preparing a fragmentary order.
Pvt. First Class, Rik Montelongo, a transportation specialist from USAG Kaiserslautern, Germany, a member of the competition cadre at station point six, said he has overseen similar competitions. The tasks involved 100 percent both physical and mental strength despite the fatigue from a 12-mile hike in Texas heat, he said.
But the most striking test of character was yet to come. As the sun sank toward the horizon, competitors made their way toward the combatives tournament ring as onlookers, media, cadre and sponsors gathered to cheer them on.
Combatives, a combination of hand-to-hand combat and wrestling, is one of the most highly anticipated events of the Best Warrior Competition. It’s a battle of wills, strength and skill that simulates wartime scenarios like being ambushed by an enemy, according to the four drill instructors from Company A, 232nd Medical Battalion from Fort Sam Houston who served as referees.
Energy and shouts of encouragement from the crowd grew as the first two competitors, Spc. Paige Plumlee representing IMCOM Northeast and Southwest from USAG West Point, N.Y., and Pfc. Marie Peto, representing IMCOM Pacific from USAG Hawaii, entered the ring to face off. The referee threw his hand and they charged at each other, fell to the ground and grappled for several minutes. Peto gained the upper hand quickly, but Plumlee didn’t relent and twisted out of a choke hold. Peto finally took the win, though, after several minutes of intense battle.
The remaining matchups were also close, especially that of Spc. Mardicio Barrot, representing IMCOM Korea from USAG Camp Red Cloud, Korea, versus Sgt. Jonathan Melendez, representing IMCOM Europe from USAG Schinnen, the Netherlands. Melendez, though smaller in stature than Barrot, gave him a run for his money in a seemingly endless scuffle; but Barrot took the win.
“My son is my motivation,” said Barrot, speaking of his son, 10-month-old Jayden, back home in Korea. Barrot also took advantage of level two combatives training earlier this month in preparation for the competition. “I’m using my strength and everything in my head in this competition,” he said.
Sgt. Steven Kennedy, representing IMCOM West from Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, saw success in the ring, too, despite having no preparation for the event, besides practicing mixed martial arts during childhood. He found out Thursday night, May 19, that he would be coming to San Antonio that weekend to compete in the Best Warrior Competition.
“Heart is the key to winning. I’m never satisfied with my position and I always want to do better,” he said. “Mentally, I’m alright, but physically, I’m exhausted. It’s difficult to muster up the desire to kill someone.” But competitors left it all in the ring.
“We’re teaching mixed martial arts, which involves discipline, but at the end of the day we’re all on the same team,” said referee Staff. Sgt. Albert Keever. He serves as a platoon sergeant with the 232nd Combat Medical Battalion from Ft. Sam Houston, Texas, but he also teaches level three combatives.
“This generation of Soldiers loves this stuff; it really motivates them,” he said. “It’s one of the best things to happen to the military in this time of war. We are still able to train Soldiers as fighters but with safety measures, and it gives them that confidence to fight and have that warrior spirit.”
After two rounds of fighting, Barrot and Sgt. Dane Jordan, representing IMCOM Northeast and Southeast from Ft. Benning, Ga., won the tournament --- and significant bragging rights. But they still face two more days of tough competition, including daytime urban orienteering, nighttime urban orienteering, reflexive fire and a mystery event on the last day, May 26.