FORT McCOY, Wis. - After four days of physically and mentally grueling events, winners from the 412th and 416th Theater Engineer Commands (TEC) were selected to advance and compete at the U.S. Army Reserve Best Warrior Competition, which will kick off at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, May 3.
The Combined TEC Best Warrior Competition lasted from April 25 to 29, crowning four total winners. Each TEC awarded first places to a noncommissioned officer (NCO) and a junior enlisted Soldier.
"This event is like the military equivalent of the Olympics for the United States Army," said Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Stanek, command sergeant major of the 416th TEC, during the awards ceremony.
The winners from the 412th TEC were Cpl. Troy McFall (NCO category), from Pisgah, Ala., with the 316th Engineer Company, headquartered in Chattanooga, Tenn.; and Spc. Anthony Mederos (junior enlisted category), from Tallahassee, Fla., also with the 316th En. Co.
The winners from the 416th TEC were Staff Sgt. Jacob Simmons (NCO category), from Danville, Ill., with the 317th En. Co., headquartered in Kankakee, Ill.; and Spc. Ian Hagen (Soldier category), from Greendale, Wis., with the 372nd En. Co., headquartered in Pewaukee, Wis..
"What a great event and a great opportunity for these winners among two different engineer commands ... to be the ones who won. That's exciting. It's huge," said Command Sgt. Maj. Paul Yingst, command sergeant major of the 926th Engineer Brigade, which was assigned to oversee the competition's planning and execution.
The competition began with approximately 36 Army Reserve Soldiers who came from all over the country to compete. The "Combined TEC" refers to the 416th and 412th TECs who co-hosted the competition. They are responsible for 26,00 Soldiers with various job specialties, including all engineer Soldiers across the Army Reserve.
The Best Warrior Competition is an annual Army-wide event designed to test individual Soldiers in various Army skill-related events. Soldiers were tested in the areas of physical fitness, rifle and pistol marksmanship, land navigation, long-distance ruck march, Army warrior tasks, board appearance, military knowledge and a written exam and essay.
McFall is a combat engineer with four years in service and a deployment to Kuwait and Iraq in support of Operation New Dawn (2011-2012), where he served as a platoon sergeant and gunner during convoys.
"These guys are freaking stout. They're good competitors. I didn't think I had a chance," said McFall after his win. "My biggest challenge was probably land (navigation), climbing (those) hills. Man. I just sucked it up. Took a drink of water, and kept moving."
Mederos is a horizontal construction engineer with four years of service. He graduated from Florida High School and is currently attending the University of North Georgia working on a degree in criminal justice.
"It feels really good. The competition was really tough. I just came here and gave it my all," said Mederos. "I had my ups and downs. Times when I thought I wasn't going to make it, but I just had to drive on, put my mind to it, just like the rest of these guys."
Simmons is a horizontal construction engineer with more than seven years of service. He deployed to Iraq (2009-2010) and has been awarded the Iraq Campaign Medal and Army Achievement Medal among other Army awards.
"It's pretty unbelievable," said Simmons about the win. "The feeling. The heart was racing. My sponsor was going crazy. It was just a once-in-a-lifetime type of feeling."
Hagen is an interior design electrician with more than four years of service with a deployment to Kandahar, Afghanistan (2013-2014). He has been awarded the Afghanistan Campaign Medal and Army Commendation Medal among other Army awards.
"I think it helps me earn a little bit more respect with my peers. It's going to make me a better leader. I like to lead by example. I got my team leader position right now, and hopefully I'm going to instill all of these things that I've learned here at this competition along my way into my Soldiers as well," said Hagen.
The runner-up competitors were Sgt. James Humphrey (412th TEC, NCO category), from Indiana, Pa., with the 340th En. Co., headquartered in New Kensington, Pa.; Cpl. Robert Waggoner (412th TEC, junior enlisted category), from Manassas, Va., with the 299th En. Co. (Multi-Role Bridge), headquartered in Fort Belvoir, Va.; Staff Sgt. Robby Courson (416th TEC, NCO category), from Silverdale, Wash., with the 301st Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, headquartered in Joint Base Lewis McCohord, Wash.; and Spc. Denis Noncarrow (416th TEC, junior enlisted category) from Celina, Texas, with the 961st Engineer Battalion, headquartered in Seagoville, Texas.
Waggoner will compete at the U.S. Army Reserve Best Warrior Competition in place of Mederos because of a personal scheduling conflict.