By T. Anthony BellApril 4, 2013
FORT LEE, Va. (April 4, 2013) -- Sgt. 1st Class Naira Frazier was in a much lighter mood when the day was over.
"I am exhausted," said the Logistics Noncommissioned Officer Academy Soldier, offering up a smile and trailing chuckle after a long day.
Those signs of relief were in stark contrast to a few hours earlier when the Soldier was entrenched in a get-it-done mind set, fireman-carrying a male Soldier to medical attention and swearing in frustration along the way and afterward.
"He might have been 180 pounds, and I'm 125 soaking wet," she said at a classroom gathering point, wiping her brow. "That was very challenging for me, very physical."
Frazier was one of 14 Soldiers who faced the challenges and burdens of the fourth CASCOM Ultimate Warrior Competition, a three-day Soldier skills showcase that concluded Wednesday. She, like many of her fellow competitors, was beaten into a state of humility by the sheer difficulty of the event's second day of competition on Tuesday.
"It was an outstanding event," she said after the completion of the Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills portion of the contest. "It was realistic training. It made us think on our feet, and it was very rigorous and physical."
Ultimate Warrior is a combined competition that selects the Soldier and NCO of the Year as well as the Instructor, Retention NCO and Advanced Individual Platoon Sergeants of the Year. The winners, which were not known at press time, will advance to the Training and Doctrine Command Best Warrior Competition scheduled to occur within the next few months. The SOY and NCOY will advance to the Department of the Army Best Warrior event that takes place at Fort Lee in October.
This week's competition brought together competitors from throughout CASCOM to include the Ordnance School's 59th Ord. Brigade, the Quartermaster School's 23rd QM Brigade, the LNCOA and the Soldier Support Institute at Fort Jackson, S.C. A physical training test, board appearance, land navigation and medical evacuation were among the events featured.
Monday was a fairly light day in comparison to the others. Soldiers completed a day and night land navigation in wooded areas using a compass, not a GPS as most are accustomed to.
On Tuesday, by far the most challenging of Ultimate Warrior, the day began in the early morning hours with a PT test that was anything but normal, requiring Soldiers to complete it in their duty uniforms and sneakers but without headgear. Most were thrown off because PT in unform is highly unusual.
"The PT test blew my mind," said the 23rd QM Brigade's PSOY contestant, Staff Sgt. Shaun McKoy. "It was a game-changer. You didn't know ahead of time that you were going to do a PT test. You were just driven to a location, dropped off, grounded our gear and got ready for the event. We took the test in ACUs, so it was different than all the other times we've taken it."
The PT test served as a bellwether and pushed the contestants into a state of readiness for the unexpected. A normal small arms weapons qualification and a 45-minute essay that took place at the Fort Lee range complex followed the earlier event.
Soldiers were then required to walk to another location where they encountered groups of pestering Southwest Asian role players at a village. There, they happened upon victims of a chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear attack and had to respond accordingly. Some of the contestants, already fatigued, reacted in confusion.
From the CBRN testing, the Soldiers walked roughly two miles down muddy roads, receiving instructions that they needed to secure airdropped cargo. Soldiers had to follow the protocol for performing such a task.
The next event led them another two or so miles into a clearing where simulated explosions and cries of help echoed. The competitors had to determine whether the victims were friend or foe and render medical attention as needed.
"It wasn't so much the evaluation of the casualty," said Sgt. Kasie Yarter, an NCOY contestant from the 23rd QM Bde, "it was moving him (the casualty) from this point to that point with all the gear."
Like Frazier, Yarter was able to move the casualty to the endpoint -- more than 100 yards from where he lay injured. She paid for it later, saying afterward "I was happy the event was over."
The last two events on Tuesday were conducted in the range complex classrooms. Soldiers completed an exam and the Mystery Event, Ultimate Warrior's traditionally undisclosed conclusion of the Soldier skills phase. It required Soldiers to arrange a mock board of uniform skill badges, ribbons and awards in the proper order of sequence.
On Wednesday, Soldiers appeared before a board of noncommissioned officers. The winners were announced later that afternoon.
Even before the event was over, many of the Soldiers raved about how the competition was run and how it challenged them.
"It was spectacular," said Staff Sgt. Gregory Stepankiw, a PSOY contestant representing the 59th Ord. Bde. "It was very well put together. It couldn't have been more challenging. The events were spot-on with everything we do in combat training. Overall, I would give it an 'A.'"
Staff Sgt. Tyrone Campbell of the LNCOA agreed and added that it exceeded his expectations.
"I competed last year, so I expected it to be maybe the same or just a little different," said the RNCOY contestant. "But it was totally different. Most of the time you didn't know what was expected, what was next. It challenged your mind and body, pushing me to limits I've never reached before."
The Soldiers estimated they covered more than 16 miles of walking during the three days of competition.