GRAFENWOEHR, Germany- Soldiers and junior officers competing in U.S. Army Europe's 2013 Best Warrior competition are not only competing as individuals for the title of "Best Warrior," but also as teams throughout the competition here Aug. 18-23.

The U.S. Army Europe Best Warrior Competition is a weeklong event that tests Soldiers' physical stamina, leadership, technical knowledge and skill. The competitors represent the best in their units and exemplify the USAREUR imperatives of teamwork, comprehensive fitness, leader development, training, discipline and standards. Winners in the Soldier and Noncommissioned Officer categories of the USAREUR competition will go on to compete at the Department of the Army level competition in October at Fort Lee, Va.

In previous years, competitors were judged solely on individual performance, but this the competitors move through the events as a mixed team. Each team consists of a Soldier, Noncommissioned Officer and Officer from the same unit. Although some of the team members do not directly work together, competing for the title of "Best Warrior" has built confidence in each other.

"It has really built not just a relationship for the competition but a relationship that we can take back to our units and really use the strengths of the unit to make everyone better," said Staff Sgt. David Foster, a Satellite Communications Operator assigned to 5th Signal Command.

The competition integrated multiple events to test each competitor's ability to work together within a team. Team assessment events included timed situational-training exercises such as entering and clearing a room of suspected enemy fighters, weapons assembly and a team reaction course.

"It is really how you operate; you never operate individually because it is always a team effort and working as a team brings more realism to the actual Best Warrior Competition itself," said Sgt. 1st Class Sergio Velazquez, a 2013 Best Warrior competitor who serves as a Platoon Observer Controller Trainer at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels, Germany. "You are always depending to the guy to your left and to your right; whether you are out down range or here in garrison you are always depending on other guys to help you out."

The medical situation training center lane was also a team event in this year's competition. The MSTC event tested each team's first responder skills; requiring communication and teamwork to assess and conduct first aid on two simulated casualties, then evacuate both to a mock helicopter.

The Close Combat Aviation lane also gave enlisted and commissioned service members a chance to build relationships and work together to accomplish a call for fire mission. Team members were given 15 minutes to locate an enemy vehicle using both binoculars and a map. After plotting the vehicle on the map, the team then called up the coordinates to an AH-64 Apache, and within minutes the attack helicopter confirmed the target and fired live 30mm rounds into the vehicle.

"It is about communication, leadership, being able to adapt in an environment so the whole crew can get together and complete the mission," said Spc. Leroy Suquintana, an Infantryman assigned to U.S. Army Europe's Headquarters Battalion in Wiesbaden, Germany.

Each of the service members in the team gained an appreciation for the benefits of working together.

"What is unique is that the teams are comprised of an NCO, officer and Soldier so when you do these team competitions a Soldier can see that their leaders are competent and that the officers and NCOS see that their Soldiers are competent," said U.S. Army Europe's Command Sgt. Maj. David Davenport.

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