Warrior tasks challenge Soldiers in USAG Benelux competition
February 23, 2012
By Keith Houin
CHIEVRES, Belgium - After three days of physical and mental challenges, Sgt. Jonathan Balcom and Spc. Ronald Chausse earned top honors in a three-day USAG Benelux NCO and Soldier of the Quarter competition held Feb. 13 to 15 here.
In freezing temperatures, sleet and rain, the two Soldiers from U.S. Army Garrison Schinnen, Netherlands faced stiff competition from their USAGs Benelux and Brussels peers.
"There was a wide variety of knowledge and skill which made the competition worthwhile. We all have our strengths and our weakness's," said Sgt. Balcom, NCO of the Quarter.
"I think by me doing this it will push my Soldiers to push themselves," said Balcom.
Each competitor had their toughest challenge in different areas and no one was able to dominate the competition.
For Sgt. Jeremy Barbour, USAG Benelux, day one's Army Physical Fitness Test, Warrior Tasks and land navigation test presented his biggest challenge.
"The toughest part of the competition to me was the Land Navigation course. The weather that day was undesirable. You could not plot a point without it being washed away in 10 seconds. You had to really use your warrior skills," said Barbour.
Day two started with a 12-mile road march in individual protective equipment and ruck, then finished with the rifle range and written exam. The majority of the competitors felt the road march was the biggest physical challenge and biggest accomplishment.
"The 12-mile ruck march was the most physically demanding by far. The distance combined with the short time limit made it tough," said Spc. Chausse, Soldier of the Quarter.
"It was a little disheartening to see (Barbour, a competitor) just take off like he wasn't carrying a pound on the ruck! But it was also motivating because I know that the only difference between me and him is a few years of dedication, hard work, and physical training," said Chausse.
Staff Sgt. Nicole Oddo, USAG Brussels found day two challenging and rewarding.
"I love testing my own abilities. So for me the highlight was completing the 12-mile march then successfully qualifying with my M16," said Oddo.
For Balcom, day two was a mixed bag.
"The worst part of the competition was the ruck march. Not only was it very physically demanding, but it made me have to dig real deep to push through to the finish," said Balcom.
Balcom finished more than 10 minutes behind his closest competitor, but made up for it at the range where he out shot every competitor. The written exam though caught him by surprise.
"I honestly took the written exam for granted I thought it would be a breeze, but there was a few curve balls thrown in to the mix," said Balcom.
Day three was an oral board with three Command Sergeant Majors and a First Sergeant.
"This was the toughest part of the competition," said Chausse.
"With the other parts of the competition like the shooting range, the ruck march, even soldier tasks and battle drills, you have an idea of how well you did because they're measurable. When you're sitting in front of a board of sergeants major and first sergeants who ask you difficult and sometimes off-the-wall questions, it's difficult to both answer the question simply and quickly, and to gauge how the board members will rate your performance. You really don't know how well you did until they tell you," said Chausse."
USAG Benelux's Spc. Corey Pogue felt the board was the highlight of the competition.
"Everyone performed well. They were all motivated to do their very best," said Pogue.
The winners both spoke highly of their competitors and the overall competition itself.
"It was a great experience and a good time. I met some new people that I hope to compete with at future events," said Balcom.