By Capt. Antonia Greene-Edwards, 174th Infantry Brigade Public affairsSeptember 20, 2013
JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. -- "Build your body like you would a Forward Operating Base defense perimeter," advised Army Capt. Adam Storms, the 174th Infantry Brigade 2013 Best Officer. "You wouldn't allow a breach in the perimeter to remain a weak spot; you would strengthen it just as you should strengthen your body with a smart, safe, and functional training program."
This is guidance that propelled Storms to the top of his peers during this year's annual Patriot Best Officer Competition; a trying three-day, sleep-deprived, mental, physical, and emotional test more than 40 officers of the 174th Infantry Brigade endured recently.
When asked what it takes to win, Storms suggested being hard on your body.
"If I had to give any advice to other service members on how to stay physically and mentally fit, I would tell them to be hard on your body," said Storms. "Yes, you will incur aches and pains, but if you choose to be easy and soft on your body instead, you'll incur more serious injuries because your body wasn't prepared for the random strenuous activity that life throws at you. If you have a pre-existing long-term injury, then be smart about it and strengthen it gradually."
Storms credited preparation, positive attitude, and fueling the body as winning ways. He continued his CrossFit routine, took advantage of the company-led five-mile runs and ruck marches as well as the weapons familiarization refresher training hosted by the 1st Battalion, 314th Infantry Regiment gunnery team.
"The key to success was catching naps where you could -- even if it was for five minutes -- finding the right time to fuel your body with food and energy for the events to come, and drink water, drink water, drink water," stressed Storms.
"All you can do is your best with a positive attitude and hope that it will carry over to your partner," said Storms.
Not knowing who their partner was until the onset of the competition was another aspect that challenged officers.
"I dreamt about this event," said Army Capt. Tessha Jones, operations officer with 1-307th Infantry Battalion. "I was worried. And not because I didn't think I could do it, but I knew that I would be partnered up with a different team member, and I just wanted to make sure that I did well for my partner."
Col. Craig A. Osborne, commander, 174th Infantry Brigade, paired the officers. He partnered a combat arms officer with a non-combat arms officer. He also mixed the officers from different battalions within the brigade as well as mixing the active duty soldiers with reserve component soldiers.
"I wanted all the teams to be generally equal and allow them to develop some new friendships, perhaps rely on people they hadn't relied on before. I didn't want anyone to have the same background or the same unit identification," he explained"
According to Osborne, there were three main goals for this competition. First was to strengthen leaders in a competitive professional development manner. Second was to enhance esprit de corps within the brigade. And lastly, provide officers an assessment measure, allowing them to test themselves against a common standard.
"Not only are the officers competing with each other and against each other, but the noncommissioned officers are out there helping their leaders get better," stressed Osborne. "The NCOs have taken a great sense of ownership in making sure we can do these tasks well, putting the officers through a demanding course of events."
"I believe things like this bring back esprit de corps, refocus the emphasis on knowledge of soldier tasks," explained Sgt. First Class Josue Rodriguez, brigade current operations section sergeant and lead planner for the completion. "We each become subject matter experts in certain fields; this is an opportunity to actually prove ourselves. In the end, we try to provide it in a controlled setting that is challenging to them, yet entertaining to keep them motivated."
"The NCO's who organized and ran the competition did an outstanding job," exclaimed Storms. "Observing the work they put into it motivated me and made me want to push myself even harder during the competition."
And push on he did -- Storms not only captured the title of best officer, but he outscored his peers by a sizable margin. The point spread between first and second place was as much as the difference amongst second and seventh place.
"It was an overall morale builder watching all of the fellow officers give their best even when they were running on empty," said Storms. "That's the courage and dedication of a Soldier to fight on when others would rest and to know that they have your back when in danger."
"It's a sense of pride in the unit that develops over a series of shared hardships," Osborne said summing up the spirit of the Best Officer Competition.
"I've always enjoyed the spirit of friendly competition and have competed in previous events to include triathlons, half ironman, long distance ocean swims, CrossFit competitions, and various distance foot races," said Storms. "But the 2013 BOC was the longest competition with no scheduled rest that I've ever done."
"There's more to being a soldier than going to work every day, this showcases that," said Rodriguez about the BOC. "It gives them the drive to succeed and hopefully they don't think we are torturing them; we just want them to have a good time and get to know their capabilities and their fellow officers working to their left and right."