By Ms. Ashley Patoka (Army Medicine)October 19, 2016
Five years ago Sgt. First Class Ilker Irmak competed in his first U.S. Army Best Warrior Competition and while he thought he was prepared, he came up short. He took his lessons learned from that opportunity and put them to work to earn the third place title in this year's competition Sept. 26 - Oct. 3 at Fort A.P. Hill, Va.
Irmak, Operations and Training noncommissioned officer at U.S. Army Medical Materiel Center Europe, said he used his first experience in the competition as motivation to do better but he also knew that this time around he needed to be better prepared.
"I knew I had to be physically fit to keep up with the competition," Irmak said. "I also knew I needed to have the stamina to go multiple days without stopping."
To prepare, Irmak ran six to eight miles in the morning, six days a week. He also took advantage of his wife's knowledge of Crossfit and Functional Fitness and worked on building muscle and his strength endurance.
Ten NCOs and 10 Soldiers, representing 10 commands from across the Army, were tested their skills in combat warfare simulations, board interviews, essays, written exams, warrior tasks, battle drills, weapon ranges, day and night land navigation, timed 12 mile tactical foot march with 45 lbs. ruck, and physical fitness tests.
But for Irmak, it wasn't just about the physical aspect, he also needed to be mentally ready.
"I did a lot of studying at home, during lunch, on the weekends and my wife would help me conduct mock boards," Irmak said.
Irmak also learned some valuable lessons about himself during his first go at Best Warrior that he thinks contributed to his success this year.
"I learned to be more humble," he said, "and to realize it isn't about you, you are representing your command."
And because he was representing his command it pushed him to do his best.
"I pushed on because I knew who I was doing it for," Irmak said. "I didn't want to have any regrets. I just wanted to make sure I gave it my all and did the best I could."
Irmak was born and raised in the Kaiserslautern, Germany area. After he finished school he worked as a security guard at multiple Army installations within the Kaiserslautern Military Community. This is where he was first exposed to U.S. Army Soldiers.
That exposure led Irmak to the United States in 2002 where he applied for citizenship and eventually joined the Army in 2004.
"SFC Irmak is a living example of the American dream and the best NCO I have had an opportunity to serve with in my 25-year Army career," said Sgt. Maj. Lee Ridling, USAMMCE Sgt. Maj. "His exposure to Soldiers sparked a desire to serve and be part of the Army team that still burns strongly. "
Irmak said he has a lot of gratitude toward the Army. He loves what he does and loves being able to spend his days surrounded by Soldiers. He feels he is living the American dream.
"I am able to live a life where I can pay all my bills," Irmak said. "I have a place to live. I have a car. I have a beautiful wife. I have a job that I am excited about and I want to go to work every day."
For Irmak, joining the Army has been much more than just a job to him.
"I look at the Army as a family; the people I work with have made such a huge impact on my life."
But Irmak is leaving his impact on others as well.
"Irmak is a tireless professional and never stops working to ensure that every task is accomplished," Ridling said. "I have never met a more dedicated Soldier; he always sets the example of what is right for all to follow. He constantly takes care of Soldiers, ensures they are trained, and pushes himself to further limits every day."
Even though Irmak placed third in the competition, he said he is still learning and knows he still has room to grow.
"I learned that I am more resilient than I thought I could be," Irmak said, "and even though I am 36 years old I can still learn and apply what I have learned. I also learned that I am very stubborn, in a good way. If I wasn't I probably would have never tried again."
Irmak is happy with this year's results. Mostly, he is happy that he could do well for his organization and his command could be recognized.
"I feel like even though this is an individual achievement, you've got to see the bigger picture," Irmak said. "It all comes back to the people who have impacted your career, and there are a lot of people who have led to my success. You can't do it by yourself."
"USAMMCE is extremely proud of Sgt. First Class Irmak. He is the epitome of a professional NCO and we are honored to serve with him," Ridling said.
For more information on the competition, visit www.army.mil/bestwarrior.