Humidity and high heat smothered the woodland. The only sounds were crickets hiding in the grass and cicadas humming in the trees. Suddenly a huge explosion ripped through the morning and a scream echoed--"I'm hit; I'm hit."

Green smoke exploded, and the smell of gunpowder and the noise of M16 rifle fire flooded the formerly peaceful scene.

Thus began warrior tasks and the battle drill segment of the U.S. Army Medical Command's Best Warrior Competition hosted by the U.S. Army Public Health Command Aug. 19--23, at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md.

Maj. Gen. Dean G. Sienko, USAPHC commander, represented Lt. Gen. Patricia D. Horoho, Army surgeon general and MEDCOM commander, at the Aug. 23 award ceremony. Sienko and Command Sgt. Maj. Donna A. Brock, senior enlisted advisor to the surgeon general and MEDCOM command sergeant major, recognized the competition winners and all the Soldiers who participated in the event.

Brock congratulated all the competitors and said that this event had provided tough and realistic training. She said it demonstrated the importance of Horoho's Performance Triad of Activity--which the competition provided in abundance; Nutrition--with the MREs Soldiers enjoyed in the field; and Sleep--which they did not get in abundance during the event.

Sienko quoted Horoho by saying the winners should not allow this to be their pinnacle of success. He said the competitors were the backbone of the Army and that through this contest they had demonstrated their capability of supporting the Army.

Sienko praised the noncommissioned officers and Soldiers, saying that the competition was not just a personal victory but a victory for those with whom they will share their discipline and hard work within the Army.

Staff Sgt. Craig Wayman, MEDCOM's 2012 NCO best warrior, announced the competition winners.

Wayman named Sgt. 1st Class Ronnie Reynolds, a combat medic at the Army Medical Department Center and School, as the 2013 MEDCOM best NCO and Spc. Erik Eaton, a laboratory specialist at the Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense, as the MEDCOM best Soldier. The winners competed against 16 other MEDCOM Soldiers and NCOs.

Competition actually began earlier this year when local units selected their best Soldiers and NCOs. Local winners competed in each of five regional medical commands and the USAPHC, the Dental Command, the AMEDD C&S, and the Medical Research and Materiel Command for the finals on the Lauderick Creek Military Reservation at APG.

The Best Warrior Competition consisted of four days of rigorous events including the Army Physical Fitness Test, rifle marksmanship qualification, day and night land navigation, Army warrior tasks and battle drills, a written exam and written essay, and a mystery event. This consisted of a 9-mm firing range, completion of an obstacle course and a uniform inspection.

Members of the headquarters and headquarters company at USAPHC and other USAPHC Soldiers spent several weeks designing the course and setting up events for the competition. The DENCOM, Northern Regional Medical Command and Medical Research Material Command also provided Soldier support during the event.

Due to the sequester, MEDCOM had an extremely limited budget, and the USAPHC was able to develop the course competition events within the budget. Brock commended the command for staying within the budget and developing a challenging competition.

Sienko and Brock presented Army Commendation Medals to Reynolds and Eaton and certificates of achievement to all the competitors.

Reynolds and Eaton will represent the MEDCOM in the Army Best Warrior Competition Oct. 15--17 at Fort Lee, Va.

NCO competitors also included:
Sgt. Andrew Hinton, laboratory specialist, Landstuhl, Germany;
Staff Sgt. Gregory Holman, combat medic, Fort Carson, Colo.;
Sgt. Mario Leon, veterinary food inspection specialist, Fort Schafter, Hawaii;
Sgt. Joshua Marrero, dental specialist, Honolulu, Hawaii;
Sgt. Justin Runyan, combat medic, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii;
Cpl. Omar Smith, laboratory specialist, Bethesda, Md.;
Sgt. Stacy Swayze, laboratory specialist, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md.;
and Sgt. Benjamin Taylor, behavioral health specialist, Fort Hood, Texas.

Soldier competitors also included:
Spc. Kyle Biggs, animal care specialist, Fort Shafter, Hawaii;
Spc. Nelson Contreras, laboratory specialist, Fort Riley, Kan.;
Spc. Garrett Hetzel, dental specialist, Fort Campbell, Ky.;
Spc. Michael Kerr, laboratory specialist, Fort Bragg, N.C.;
Spc. Connor Loehr, radiology specialist, Fort Polk, La.;
Pfc. Rafael Martinez, combat medic, Fort Sam Houston, Texas;
Pfc. Gyasi McKenzie, combat medic, Katterbach, Germany;
and Pfc. Walter Schreiber, combat medic, Camp Stanley, Korea.