FORT LEE, Va. (July 18, 2013) -- "New, unusual and challenging" are all good words to hear when listening to a description of a military training event.

Soldiers of Fort Lee's 54th Quartermaster Company -- one of only two Army active duty mortuary affairs units -- cited those factors and more during a July 10 exercise here that incorporated an element of competition while emphasizing basic warrior skills.

"They were definitely more involved," said Sgt. Donna Grady, the noncommissioned officer in charge of unit training and one of the evaluators during the event. "The spirit of competition increased their focus and gave them the motivation to shine. It was different than regular sergeant's time training where they're listening, but not always attentive."

Grady said roughly 70 Soldiers participated in the exercise that took place in the company area and included several Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills.

"The main goal was to get Soldiers engaged, increase their confidence and build proficiency in basic warrior skills," said Grady while the competition was still in process.

She also said the unit billed it as something to help its members prepare for the boards, whether it's for Soldier of the month, promotion or qualification for the Sergeant Audie Murphy Club. "We want them to shine; we want them to have that exposure because we have a lot of outstanding Soldiers here," said Grady.

Unit members showcased their skills at three stations during the training: M-16 familiarization; Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear; and a radio communications station focusing on 9-line medical evacuation procedures.

Each station featured the usual conditions and standards for each task performed, and awards were presented to the Soldier with the best overall score and those who scored highest on each task.

Spc. Stephanie Trevino, a member of the unit since 2010, said the event greatly increased her enthusiasm.

"To see everyone go through the different stations, and to challenge myself like this -- I felt it was a great opportunity, and I think we should do it more often as a refresher," she said after completing the M-16 station."

Sweating as a result of the 90-degree-plus temperatures and humid conditions, Trevino also said the element of competition added some measure of incentive.

"You know what they say, 'One team, one fight,'" she said, "well, when it's an individual competition, that's the real test because you're always used to having people on your team and pulling your weight. In a competition, you're relying on yourself."

Pfc. Kelli Hollins agreed, adding that the competition veiled the fact that the training content was unchanged.

"Everything was brought to us in a different way this time," she said. "It was interesting and instructional because I learned some things I never learned before, and being a new Soldier, I can appreciate that."

Hollins said she didn't learn to disassemble an M-16 in basic combat training, but she learned in preparation for the competition.

"I always have trouble with removing the handguards," she said of the M-16, "but I passed. I did it in a minute and 22 seconds. I'm happy."

Whereas Hollins sported a toothy smile as a result of her accomplishment, Spc. Daniel Guzman was more reserved, yet expressed his excitement with the day's events.

"It was pretty fun; pretty eventful," he said. "We don't get to do competitions like this. I really enjoyed myself."

The event also elicited the element of challenge. Pfc. Amanda Fairfax, who has been assigned to the unit for one year, said the 9-line medical evacuation has been a source of frustration since basic training.

."I've always had to ask questions about it," she said. "That way, I can maybe better understand it. The training today was the first time I actually understood it."

Soldiers were recognized for earning the best score at each station. The Soldier with the best combined score was also cited. To win the competition, Soldiers were judged on how well they recited the "The Soldier's Creed" and "The Army Values" in addition to their timed performances at each station.