By Staff Sgt. Gaelen Lowers, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne)April 23, 2015
FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. (USASOC News Service, April 23, 2015) -- "The dictionary is the only place that success comes before work. Hard work is the price we must pay for success. I think you can accomplish anything if you're willing to pay the price."
Vince Lombardi, most notably the head coach of the Green Bay Packers during the 1960s, said this memorable quote to his players before heading out onto the field.
Six Soldiers and six noncommissioned officers exemplified this trait above all others by testing their mettle in the weeklong 2015 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) Best Warrior Competition April 12-17, at Fort Campbell, Ky.
Sgt. Mark Aescht and Spc. Ernesto Aldana from Headquarters and Headquarters Company, Staff Sgt. Rodney Cabebe and Pfc. Kevin Ayala from the Special Operations Aviation Training Battalion, Sgt. Jared Bollinger and Spc. Emanuel Moore from 1st Battalion, Sgt. Michael Brankamp and Spc. Kevin Brandt from 2nd Battalion, Sgt. Ryan Vacca and Spc. Christian Rodriguez from 3rd Battalion, and Sgt. David Mason and Spc. Johnathan Castillo from 4th Battalion were selected by their units to represent them in the challenge.
"Everyone came with one or two previous competitions under their belt, from their company and battalion before they reached the regiment level," said Cabebe. "So the level of competition was fierce."
The purpose of the competition was to select the best Soldier and NCO from the regiment to compete in the United States Army Special Operations Command's competition, the next level before reaching the Department of the Army competition.
"We wanted to test the competitors physically and mentally by planning and coordinating challenging, professional, and safe events," said Sgt. Benjamin Wing, one of the competition's coordinators and operations Soldier for the 160th. "Our goal was to find the best of the best; to select the most proficient and qualified NCO and Soldier to represent the Night Stalkers for the USASOC competition."
And test they did.
Day 1 began on a Sunday with an Army physical fitness test, followed by an equipment layout, then moved directly into an exam and essay. This challenged each competitor's level of physical fitness and attention to detail.
The next day continued the competition bright and early with a 6-mile road march, quickly followed by a weapons range where competitors were tested on two different weapons.
The day ended with a full spectrum test of their knowledge of Army warrior tasks including: reacting to enemy fire, treating a casualty, programming a radio, and calling in for a medical evacuation. This was the longest day of the competition with each Soldier and NCO being awake for more than 18 hours and working on pure adrenaline alone.
Day 3 began with a mystery event requiring each of them to lead the group in the Army's new Physical Readiness Training. They were allowed to rest up during lunch because that afternoon, they went toe-to-toe in a combatives tournament, leaving many with a few battle wounds, or "trophies" as many of the competitors called them.
The next day, the competitors were thrown into the woods for seven straight hours of day and night time land navigation. During the day portion, each Soldier and NCO had to find five points over an approximate 19 square mile course and three points in the dead of night.
The competition concluded on the final day with an oral board where the competitors donned their Army Service Uniform and answered questions testing their level of Army knowledge and competency.
Although each competitor pushed their individual limits to the breaking point, in the end, there could only be two winners. Cabebe from SOATB and Moore from 1st Battalion were able to rise above their peers and become the 160th's best warriors.
"I came into this competition to challenge myself," said Cabebe. "I'm proud to be representing the Night Stalkers in the upcoming USASOC competition. I feel confident, but I would never underestimate anyone. You have to be a pretty spectacular and well-rounded Soldier to reach this level. I'm looking forward to challenge."