By David VergunSeptember 30, 2016
FORT A.P. HILL, Va. (Army News Service) -- The Best Warrior competition is about much more than trophies and bragging rights, said Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey.
The competition serves at least two basic purposes, he said, speaking during the competition at Fort A.P Hill Wednesday, Sept. 28.
First, the competition builds esprit de corps within the Army. Dailey believes that, when the names of the NCO and the Soldier of the Year are announced at the Association of the United States Army on Monday, Oct. 3, it is sure to resonate with other Soldiers.
Not everyone can be Soldier or NCO of the Year, but others will see their examples and strive to emulate them, he noted. And, that's won't be easy.
"These Soldiers and NCOs have been working hard at this for months and months and months," he said.
Second, even those who don't win trophies will return to their Soldiers and units with the realization that they can train in a different way.
"[They] can teach the ability to think on the move, and creatively think how to find solutions, because you never know what kind of situation you're going to be in," Dailey said.
To make it to the Best Warrior competition, Soldiers must be astute professionals who are prepared to lead Soldiers in a combat environment, according to Sgt. 1st Class Jerod Burghardt, leadership development troop NCO of the Asymmetric Warfare Group, or AWG.
Burghardt said he and his cadre devised some out-of-the-box training methods for the competition to challenge the Soldiers both physically and mentally.
"We put them in an ambiguous environment that causes difficulties," he said. "Because they don't know what they're doing today. They don't know what they're doing in an hour. They don't know what they're doing tomorrow."
The competition involves a multitude of tasks, from skill levels one through three, he explained. "We add to those tasks and we expect just a little bit more than what we'd ask of an average Soldier. We want them to go above and beyond the normal standards."
Evaluating a Soldier's performance in the competition means looking at more than just the Soldier's abilities to shoot and land navigate.
"It goes to their critical-thinking skills: putting a problem in front of them that they might not have seen before, and they've got to solve it," Burghardt said. "It's also based on a time criteria and an execution criteria so if they don't complete the mission, they don't succeed."
AWG uses a methodology called the Adaptive Soldier Leader Training and Education, or ASLTE. It's designed to go beyond traditional training approaches. Burghardt thinks it could be the future training methodology in the Army.
"In the past eight years since ASLTE was adopted, Soldiers have been saying, 'I wish I could have been doing this sooner,'" he said.
Spc. Daniel Guenther, 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, from Hoenfels, Germany, said he was inspired to win by the examples of others who entered the competition. He credited his squad leader for mentoring him and giving him the time and resources to prepare
Sgt. Victor Galvez of the Medical Research Institute of Medical Defense at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, said he will pass along everything he learned to Soldiers in his command who don't often get to do this type of training.
Spc. Michael Orozco, a reservist with the 387th Engineer Company in Scottsdale, Arizona, said his first sergeant told him about Best Warrior, and he thought it "sounded like fun." He said it's tough mentally and physically, but still, he's having a good time.
Orozco noted that at the start of the competition, their cell phones were confiscated to prevent cheating. Asked if it was hard to be without a cell phone to call his wife and friends, he replied that he came into the Army late in life.
By his estimation, his age, 31, puts him somewhere on the borderline between the Millennial generation and Generation X. His wife is the same age, so both can easily recall a time before cell phones and social media.
Spc. Robert Miller, 24, of the 74th Ordnance Company, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, said he was enjoying his time without his phone.
"I love … to get away from that stuff, branch off, and be with myself or a close group of friends out in the wilderness hanging out," he said. "All of us guys get to connect with each other rather than staring at our phones all day and night."
Miller has a 3-year-old daughter, who remained behind in Hawaii. "She's been an incredible motivator for me," he said.
The specialist said that, after the competition, he plans to encourage some of his friends to compete.
"Someday when I become a leader, I'll encourage my Soldiers to push themselves and to see what they're capable of," he said.
MORE ABOUT BEST WARRIOR
Soldiers here at Best Warrior are competing for NCO of the Year and Soldier of the Year. The results will be announced Monday, at the Association of the United States Army annual meeting in Washington, D.C.
Thursday, Sept. 29 was day four of the five-day competition. Thus far, the Soldiers have been tested at multiple shooting events, casualty treatment and evacuation, day and night land navigation, a physical fitness Test, essay writing, a rucksack march and memory test, an obstacle course and a buddy run.
The Best Warrior competition organizers will not reveal who is ahead in points and what events tomorrow will bring.