By Mark Iacampo, U.S. Army Garrison Hohenfels Public AffairsJune 14, 2013
HOHENFELS, Germany -- Three Soldiers from Hohenfels have won the right to represent the Joint Multinational Training Center at the U.S. Army Europe Best Warrior Competition being held in Grafenwoehr in August.
First Lt. Carl Hill, 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, Sgt. 1st Class Sergio Valezquez, Joint Multinational Readiness Center Headquarters and Headquarters Company, and Spc. Cameron Hebel, 1-4th Inf. Reg., each took first place in the qualifying JMTC Best Warrior Competition in their respective categories of officer, noncommissioned officer, and Soldier.
The four-day competition featured multiple events designed to challenge Soldiers across a wide spectrum of skills, such as weapons qualifications, medical simulations, land navigation and a six-mile ruck march.
"A 35-pound rucksack is pretty much standard across the Army, but I've never done it in body armor before," Hill said, noting that the armor added roughly 30 additional pounds.
"And as soon as you got to the objective, you start shooting right off the bat for a stress shoot," said Valezquez. "Guys are yelling at you to shoot quick, and you're supposed to engage as many targets as you can with both your M9 and M4."
Despite the tough march, the Soldiers had little time to rest. They were awakened at 2 a.m. the following morning to be bussed off to the land navigation course.
"We got started around 4 a.m., so half the time we were in darkness and half in daylight," said Valezquez.
The night navigation was performed with a Defense Advanced GPS Receiver (DAGR or "dagger") while the daylight portion utilized a compass.
"A lot of guys had sore feet by the end of that," laughed Valezquez.
Hill said one of the things he enjoyed about the competition was that each event had some unusual variable which made it that much more challenging.
"Like adding the body armor to the ruck march, or for the "call for fire," you didn't have a compass on the screen, you had to use terrain association," he said. "It made you think on your feet a little bit and I liked that."
The competition also included a written essay, uniform inspections, and a Sexual Harassment / Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) scenario.
"I enjoyed that it wasn't just a physical competition," said Hill. "It wasn't just shooting or something like that. You had to be on your game in all things that the Army teaches you and all Soldiering skills that you learn."
Though the three Soldiers took top honors, they admitted they hadn't trained specifically for the event.
"I thought that was kind of good though … walking into it blind like that … it was a true test of my abilities," said Hill.
However, now that they've moved on to the USAREUR level, training is a necessity.
"I've already started training up for the next one," said Valezquez. "I don't want to disappoint all the guys that are behind me."
Hill said he will assess the areas in which he felt weakest and seek out resources and special training to improve his skills.
"Things such as marksmanship or medical training; stuff that I, as an officer, don't really spend a lot of time on; general Soldier skills that tend to be overlooked by myself, sometimes," he said.
Two winners from the USAREUR competition will then go on to compete at the Department of the Army (DA) level. Valezquez noted that last year's Army NCO of the year, Staff Sgt. Mathew Senna, also hailed from JMTC.
"I'm focused on the next one right now," Valezquez said, "but the big picture is DA Best Warrior. That's really the goal."