JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. - U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers with the 412th and 416th Theater Engineer Commands competed in a combined Best Warrior Competition April 3 to 8 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, to identify the noncommissioned officer and enlisted Soldier to represent each TEC at the U.S. Army Reserve Command Best Warrior Competition.
In the enlisted category, Spc. Brandon Dunham, 94th Military Police Company, 302nd Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, and Saco, Maine, resident, will represent the 412th TEC while Spc. Michael Orozco, 387th Engineer Co., 301st MEB, from Goodyear, Arizona, will represent the 416th TEC.
Sgt. 1st Class Jeff Ramer, 474th Eng. Platoon, 926th Eng. Brigade, from Tampa, Florida, will represent the 412th TEC and Staff Sgt. Travis McCorkendale, 374th Eng. Co., 301st MEB, a San Francisco native, will represent the 416th TEC in the noncommissioned officer category.
The competition included a variety of Soldier tasks including the Army Physical Fitness Test, combat water survival, various weapon qualifications, Army Warrior Tasks, land navigation, combatives, a flight and battle lane and a sergeants major board.
"(It was) challenging, just the overall knowledge you have to know and pass on," said McCorkendale. "I think we did 32 events, so knowing all that information and then for the board there was 10 categories and 20 different questions on the board. It was just memorizing and knowing how to do it all."
While all four Soldiers are moving on to the USARC level, which will be held at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, May 1 to 7, their motivation comes from different sources.
Orozco said he wanted to represent himself, his unit, mentors, wife and family. McCorkendale and Ramer want to motivate their Soldiers. Dunham said he was told to compete at a lower level and did so well he kept moving on.
"I was kind of volunten-told at first," said Dunham. "We did a platoon (competition) and I won it and they told me, 'You're definitely going (to company level).' Once I got there, the competitive side kicked in and I started loving it, it was fun."
The competitors each struggled in a different area during the competition.
For Ramer is was the balance between his civilian responsibilities and training for the competition.
"It was hard juggling everything with my civilian life," he said. "I'm a graduate student and I work and have a fiancée so it's tough. There are only so many hours in a day so
prepping for it is definitely the hardest part of it. Once you get out here it's easy; you just do it and go home. It's everything else you have to do to get out here."
Orozco also found the hardest part to be training up, but in a specific area.
"I think for me the hardest part was the battle lanes just because they're difficult to train for unless you have the opportunities and resources," he said. "For a lot of this stuff: the boards and weapons jumbles, if you're at the unit you can do a lot of the stuff on your own and outside the company, but you can't really run lanes at your house with incoming fire and artillery and injured Soldiers unless you have people that are willing to do it."
McCorkendale said he just had an off day as far as firing his weapons, while for Dunham it was focusing on preparing more for the mental tasks rather than the physical.
"The physical part (was the hardest)," he said. "Mentally, when I did brigade, it was a lot so I focused more on training mentally, but at the TEC level by the end of it, it took a lot to just get out of bed. I was pretty tired physically."
The winners had words of advice for future competitors. Dunham urges them to never underestimate themselves, while Orozco encourages them to work hard. McCorkendale said studying is important, but fitness is the key.
"Study more and be more physically fit," he said. "If you think you're physically fit enough, you're probably not."
As the competitors prepare the move on to USARC, they all have different ideas of how they will do, but they all said they will put forth maximum effort to succeed.
"It's different at every level. I've been going at this since December at company level. It definitely progresses and gets harder," said Ramer. "I'll put everything I've got into it and see what happens. It's going to tough. I've been an (observer controller/trainer) at the USARC competition so I know what they do up there. It's just taking one event at a time."
Dunham is just thankful to have succeeded at the TEC level.
"Like with every competition, I don't have a ton of confidence in myself when I go into it, but I'm going to do my best," he said. "I didn't think I was going to make it anywhere near as far as I did already. I'm just going to give it my all."
Orozco on the other hand is filled with confidence.
"I'm going win at USARC," he said. "It will be a lot of work and I've got to get my shoulder healed up a little bit, but I think I'll do alright. I'll close up a couple shot groups and get rid of the injured shoulder and I should be alright."
McCorkendale, who is a Sapper, is competing in another "Best" before taking part in USARC's Best Warrior Competition.
"I think I'll do good. I don't know what the competition will be like there, but I've got to go to the Best Sapper against the active duty week after next and then I'll have a week off, then I'll go to USARC," he said. "The competition will be tough but I'll just give it 100 percent and hope for the best."
During this combined competition, the Soldiers of the two TECs competed side-by-side. In a few weeks they will face each other and the rest of the Army Reserve for the title of USARC Best Warrior.