By Patrick BuffettApril 21, 2016
FORT LEE, Va. (April 21, 2016) -- Fully understanding the title "Ultimate Warrior" is impossible without knowing the caliber of Soldiers who have answered its call.
Those competing this week in the Combined Arms Support Command competition bearing that name are not wannabe grunts, gluttons for punishment or kiss-ups looking for ways to impress their superiors. They are enthusiastic enlisted troops and noncommissioned officers who, in the words of one competitor, "have chosen to step out of the comfort zone and live up to the expectations of the units and organizations that sent them there."
The 2016 installment of Ultimate Warrior kicked off Monday with an early morning Army Physical Fitness Test at the Post Field House. The assortment of challenges since then include a written exam, a land navigation course, a field test site where competitors demonstrated their ability to complete basic Soldiering tasks commensurate with their rank, a ruck march and a weapons qualification range. Administrative boards are scheduled through 4:30 p.m. today followed by the announcement of overall winners at a ceremony in the Ordnance Training Center.
Twelve individuals are competing. The Ordnance, Quartermaster and Transportation branches are represented as well as the Soldier Support Institute at Fort Jackson, S.C., which has three sustainers in the hunt for the winning titles of NCO or Soldier of the Year, Advanced Individual Training Platoon Sergeant of the Year and Instructor of the Year.
Staff Sgt. George Coulter III, a Bravo Company, 832nd Ordnance Battalion, platoon sergeant vying for NCOY, offered additional perspective on what it means to be part of the competition.
"I came here to challenge myself; to put my knowledge and skills up against some of the best noncommissioned officers in CASCOM," he explained. "Another way I see it is repaying a debt I owe to the leaders and mentors who have trained me over the years. They helped build my confidence and capability, and I can't let them down.
"As a platoon sergeant, I also have to consider my Soldiers who are counting on me to bring it to the house (his term for competing at the highest level possible)," the 31-year-old Augusta, Ga., native continued. "If we're not willing to work hard for a goal, how can we ask them to?"
Staff Sgt. Eva Miranda, an Alpha Company, 369th Adjutant General Battalion, platoon sergeant from Fort Jackson, shared similar observations.
"Coming here is a little intimidating to say the least," she said of her trip to Ultimate Warrior. "Then I find out I'm the only female competitor, so that's another level of expectation I have to meet. What I keep telling myself, though, is this is my chance to show who I am as a Soldier and a leader. My biggest competitor is myself. Here, I will prove what I am capable of and what my limits are."
While winning the competition would be a great reward, the seven-year Army veteran said she's mindful of the "big picture" military organizations have in mind when they send their Soldiers to command-level competitions.
"It's a learning and growth opportunity," Miranda noted. "The Soldier I am today is nothing like who I was three years ago (she declined to offer details). That's the point. There are always new experiences that increase a military member's value. The Army wants go-getters, and that's what this competition inspires."
Adding one's name to a long-list of previous Ultimate Warrior competitors and winners is nothing to sneeze at either, observed Staff Sgt. Jonathan Sisk, a PSOY competitor representing Charlie Company, 262nd Quartermaster Battalion.
"There have been so many who have walked this path before me and performed at a level that exceeds what is normally expected of a Soldier," said the 12-year veteran who hails from Tuscaloosa, Ala. "It is huge honor to now follow in those footsteps and make my mark as an Ultimate Warrior competitor. I will try my best to go all the way so I can represent CASCOM at the TRADOC level."
Offering an overall assessment of this year's competitors following the APFT Monday morning, Sgt. 1st Class Lorenzo Souza Jr., operations sergeant for CASCOM G-3/5/7, said the level of focus and fighting spirit is greater than what he has seen over the past few years.
"Right off the bat, I could tell they were serious about this," he said. "There's a level of intensity in their eyes. They're hungry for whatever challenges we throw at them. I'm really looking forward to what they're going to bring throughout the week."