After two days of grueling physical challenges, tests of will power and military knowledge, an Army Ranger claimed 1st place in I Corps' inaugural Best Armed Forces Competition at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., Mar. 15-16.
Army Sgt. 1st Class Brenden Shannon, a platoon sergeant with 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, took first place over 16 other competitors.
Army Spc. Kasey McIlveen, a soldier with 62nd Medical Brigade, 593rd Sustainment Command, took 2nd place and Air Force Senior Airman Joseph Pennington, an Air Support Operations Specialist with 5th Air Support Operations Squadron rounded out the top with 3rd place.
Shannon was awarded the Army Commendation Medal, a plaque from the Cpt. Meriwether Lewis Chapter Association of the United States Army and a plate carrier from Tactical Taylors. Both McIlveen and Pennington received the Army Achievement Medal and a gift from Tactical Taylors.
The Best Armed Forces Competition included day and night land navigation, 12-mile road march, M9 stress shooting range, obstacle course, physical fitness test and military knowledge question board.
"I wanted the Servicemembers from the local area to come together and learn from each other," said Sgt. Maj. Jose Otero, the event coordinator and Provost Marshal Sgt. Maj. for I Corps. "When we deploy, we work alongside each other. However, in a garrison environment, we don't get to interact with our sister services as often. I planned this event for these men and women to not only learn about the other services, but learn from the other Servicemembers and how they complete these basic military tasks."
The tasks were chosen to emulate the basic tactics and techniques used by each of the services so one branch would not have an unfair advantage, said Otero.
"This event helped me get back to the basics of being in the military," said Pennington. "It let me hone my skills and allowed me to experience new things. During the stress shoot, I shot a 9mm pistol while lying on the ground. I had never done that before and I thought it was pretty cool. I also had to learn about things from the other services for the board."
During the military knowledge board, each service had a representative that would ask questions specific to their branch, from the services birthdate to specifics about the branch's crest. Each of the contestants received a packet of sample questions to study.
Shannon plans to take these events and scale them down for his platoon. He added that each service would get even better if they did the same.
"This event was some of the best training that I have had," said Shannon. "This tested more than just our physical capabilities, it strengthened our fighting spirits, hearts and minds."
Some of the contestants were chosen based on their previous competition capabilities, such as Pennington, who won a best Airman competition previously. Others volunteered for this to prove they are the best, like Coast Guard Petty Officer 1 Nathanael Kruse. While still other contestants didn't have a chance to train for this event due to other missions.
"This was my baseline," said Shannon. "I was in a training event out in Yakima, Washington, leading up to this challenge. I didn't do anything extra to prepare. Most of the Servicemembers out here didn't train specifically for this event. This is just who we are every day of the week."
Participants came from many different services. The Army provided 7 Soldiers, the Air Force sent 6, 3 Marines attended and 1 Coast Guardsman all came to prove they are the best.
Upon completion of the event, I Corps' Commanding General Lt. Gen. Stephen Lanza spoke to the candidates, telling each of them that the military is immensely better for their contributions and dedication.
"Each of you show the dedication you have to support and defend the nation by having the will to win," said Lanza. "But, each of you not only has a will to win, you have the will to prepare to win...People have asked me, 'what makes the U.S. military so great?' The answer is: NCO's like you."