FORT MCCOY, Wis., - Competitors overcame the winter climate conditions to claim the 372nd Engineer Brigade's Best Warrior title at Fort McCoy on March 10-14, 2013. Soldiers competed in the weeklong competition in the two categories as junior enlisted soldiers and non-commissioned officers.
Snow blanketed the half-mile running track the night before the competitors were scheduled to take the Army Physical Fitness test. The event had to be pushed back two hours to ensure salt could be laid down to prevent injuries.
"There was a lot of salt, but it's good they're looking out for our safety," said Spc. Mitchell R. Fromm, representing the 428th Engineer Company out of Wausau, Wis., who raced to the finish line of the two-mile run marking his "fastest run to date."
Fromm, a native of Marathon City, Wis., has been running in the cold weather to train not only for this competition, but also for the "Salute the Troops" half-marathon he plans to run in Fon Du Lac, Wis., in May.
Not all the soldiers were as experienced in managing the winter weather. One competitor was disqualified under the cold conditions, but not Sgt. James E. Vargas, representing the 312th Engineer Company out of Duluth, Minn.
"The cold hurts the lungs, freezes the lungs. I made the mistake of breathing through my mouth," said Vargas.
Battling each other in Modern Army Combatives after dealing the cold weather added to the test of endurance.
"Cold weather kinda sucks, took everything out of me," said Staff Sgt. Nicholas M. Dershem representing the 304th Engineer Company out of Lima, Ohio.
Ft. McCoy's high hills and deep snow was the biggest challenge for many of the competitors during the land navigation event. With the recent winter storms raging across the Midwest, snow had built up between one to two feet, making it more difficult for the competitors to find and reach their way-points.
"Knee deep and hills, even being six foot one, it was knee deep," said Spc. Gary L. Goins representing the 389th Engineer Battalion out of Davenport, Iowa.
There would normally be a night land navigation event but it had to be canceled because of the hazardous, snowy conditions.
Weapons qualification in the snow was a first for many of the competitors, but not for Spc. Jesse A. Bleed, representing the 100th Chaplain Detachment out of Fort Snelling, Minn., who sees the benefits of shooting green targets in the white snow.
"The snow helps the targets pop out better, easier to see," said Bleed. Soldiers even had to adjust fire for the formal appearance board event.
Instead of trampling through the messy snow and puddles of melted ice, the soldiers changed into dress uniforms in the back of the building while waiting for their turn in front with the board. Soldiers then changed back into the Army combat uniform before heading back across the snow to their
barracks to await the results.
One soldier received an award early. Staff Sgt. David W. Maybury, representing Headquarters Support Company, for the 367th Engineer Battalion, out of St. Cloud, Minn., was presented with the 372nd Engineer Brigade Purple Heart Coin from Command Sgt. Maj. Knute K. Weick. During his
deployment to Ramadi, Iraq in 2006, Maybury's vehicle was T-boned by a vehicle blown IED.
The winners of the competition, however, were not announced until the awards banquet. Spc. Fromm won the Junior Enlisted 372nd Engineer Brigade Best Warrior title, while Sgt. Tyler J. Tidgwell, representing 327th Engineer Company out of Onalaska, Wis., won the non-commissioned officer Best Warrior
Both winners have earned the chance to compete at Regional Best Warrior Competition in April which will be hosted by the 416th Theater Engineer Command.