JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. - Fun is hardly a word associated with pain, suffering and sleep deprivation.
For most other 22-year-old college students, fun comes inside a room filled with rowdy friends shouting cheers or groans at the game on TV, stacks of pizza boxes on the table and plenty of beers making their rounds from the fridge.
But for Spc. Gregory Doty, fun comes inside a military uniform, tackling the challenges of the 2014 Army Reserve Best Warrior Competition.
"I'm going to go there and have as much fun as I can with it, and my competitive spirit will do the rest for me," said the native of Peekskill, New York.
From waking up in the dead of night, to being tossed into the woods, half asleep, with just a compass, protractor and a map, having to find his way out in the light of the moon, that's where Doty finds his fun.His favorite quote is from Mark Twain: "The secret of success is making your vocation your vacation."So for every day this week, Doty is on vacation in the muggy woods and dusty ranges here.
Doty represents the 412th Theater Engineer Command (TEC) in this year's junior enlisted category.
During his last Best Warrior competition in April, Doty slept barely three hours between a land navigation course that forced him across three miles of mountainous landscape at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, and the next morning's six-mile road march with a ruck on his back and ballistic vest strapped to his chest.
This was after the competition had already wrung him through a physical fitness test, a 200-meter swim and a gruesome obstacle course among other events he faced in just 48 hours with many more to go. At one point during his hilly and wooden traverse, Doty's legs actually buckled. He slipped a few times climbing a 45-degree slope carrying a rifle and combat gear.
Those hills were no roller coaster rides.
That word - "fun" - starts to sound like a bit of an embellishment.
But Doty actually likes this stuff, and remains unshaken despite the dirt and bruises.
At the end of the TEC competition, Doty was at his best when he stepped into a room full of sergeants major wearing a neatly pressed dress uniform and spit-shined shoes. Most Soldiers find this to be the most intimidating part of the journey: Not the long miles or worn muscles, but the mental demands.
The dreaded appearance board can make sharp-minded Soldiers forget words to the creeds they've been reciting for months.
Instead, Doty rocked it with crisp facing movements and confident answers.
"The sergeants major want to see that you're confident even when in a simple situation, like standing in a room talking. They want to know that you've got absolute confidence, and if you can't have that then, then you can't do it in [combat] or anything else," said Doty, who is an allied trade specialist - a mix between machinist and welder - for the 854th Engineer Battalion.He's barely spent two years in the Army Reserve and was promoted from private first class to specialist in March, only adding to his accomplishments.Yet, despite his lack of time in the military, Doty stays sharp as Army ROTC cadet at Fordham University. As a cadet, he spends six hours a week learning land navigation, troop movement, leadership and military knowledge. Plus, he invested another hour each day studying field manuals and army regulations, while in full swing of his college semester.However, the Army Reserve level competition is more intense than anything he has done yet. Doty knows Soldiers were good at the last level. Here, he will be up against the best of the best competitors from each reserve command."I expect a lot more of a competition from these guys ... I know a big competition [like this] is going to be way more intense," he said.And yet, he doesn't plan on changing his outlook, nor his preparation."I'm just not going to really worry about how the competition is because that's only going to demoralize me. I like to think of it as just another training event. I get to shoot a pistol. I get to go shoot a rifle. A ruck march," he said. "Stuff that I love."