FORT MCCOY, Wis. " When people think of the Army, they often think of soldiers deployed, living on forward operating bases and driving mine resistant ambush protected vehicles.
But there is another part of the Army of which a lot of people are not aware. The United States Army has its own musicians.
One of them is Spc. Charissa Spears, a member of the 191st Army Band at Camp Parks, Calif., who also happens to be competing in the 2011 United States Army Reserve Command’s Best Warrior Competition held at Fort McCoy, Wis.
Spears, who stands roughly 5 ft. 5 in., may not be the typical size for a soldier, but she incorporates the Army values of never quitting, which gives her the will to drive on.
Those values have served her well in this week’s Best Warrior Competition, a 5-day event that test the warriors mentally and physically. Soldiers are pushed to their limits while participating in events such as land navigation, Army combatives, marksmanship, and a 10k road march. The competition also includes mystery events, which puts the warriors in situations where they can’t always control what’s happening.
The first mystery even that took place required the competitors to perform buddy aid to a mannequin. Not knowing the event beforehand allowed the Soldiers to use skills they learned in the past. Spears said it was her favorite event.
“That was interesting because I was able to apply what I learned while taking the CLS class,” said Spears.
So far Spears said she has enjoyed the experience at the competition and is satisfied with her performance. With the competition including the best of the best in the Army Reserves, not many people expected a member of the Army band to be one of the competitors.
“A lot of people are surprise to see band members here,” said Spears. “Some soldiers don’t realize that being in a band is a military occupation specialty in the Army.
Although her MOS is an instrumentalist specialist, she knows that she is a Soldier first.
“We have to remember that we are Soldiers and there are general things that we are expected to know,” said Spears.
The competition included 43 Army reservists from all over the United States. The competitors were primarily male but Spears was one of three female Soldiers in the competition.
“I was excited to see other females,” said Spears. “I’m glad I’m not alone.”
Competing in the Best Warrior Competition means that the females have the same standards as the males.
“We’re all held at the same standards so we have to step it up,” said Spears. “A lot of this stuff I’m inexperienced with but I can adapt to anything and I don’t quit.”
In addition to her duties as an Army Reserve Soldier, Spears is also an accomplished musician as a civilian.
Spears, who plays the saxophone, said she was inspired by a father and son duo that would play at the church she attended while growing up.
She continues to play in her unit and is currently pursuing a bachelor of arts in music education from California State University-Stanislaus.
Spears and her unit perform concerts throughout the year for events such as 4th of July and Christmas.
“The band’s mission is to inspire our troops, instilling in them the will to fight and win,” said Spears. “(and) to foster the support of the community.”
Spears and the Soldiers competing this week at the Best Warrior Competition at Fort McCoy, Wis., represent 205,000 Soldiers in the U.S. Army Reserve.
Two winners will be selected at the end of the week as the Army Reserve’s Soldier and Non-Commissioned Officer of the year and will represent the Army Reserve at the Army’s Best Warrior Competition in October at Fort Lee, Va.
The Soldiers are spending a week on a variety of Army challenges that test their mettle in tests of skill such as weapons qualification, a ruck march, land navigation, Army combatives, first aid, and weapons assembly.
Their military backgrounds and experience represent the entire spectrum of the Army Reserve. Many have deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan, and Kuwait. Their career fields include military police, healthcare, mechanics, human resources, intelligence, chaplain assistant and engineering. They represent a wide cross-section of America, hailing from various states across the United States.
The winners will be announced at an awards dinner at 5 p.m. Central time, June 24, at the American Legion Post in Sparta, Wis. The top NCO and Soldier will go on to represent Army Reserve at the Department of the Army “Best Warrior” Competition, to be held in October at Fort Lee, Va.