Fort Huachuca, Arizona - Explosions, gunfire, screams for help, hostile villagers, battle field injures and unknown surprises of all kinds awaited the best warrior competitors on day three of the 335th Signal Command's (Theater) 2017 Best Warrior Competition here March 29.
"This morning we ran an urban operations course that was a team exercise but was individually graded," said Staff Sgt. Jason Philleo, noncommissioned officer-in-charge of the 335th SC (T) Best Warrior Competition. "The whole point of the event was to push the Soldiers through the lane and see what their combat skills were."
The competitors, armed with paintball guns, were given a scenario prior to the start of the event that involved finding and securing a high-value target within a small village, that was crawling with a host of enemy forces and deadly obstacles.
"We encountered Improvised Explosive Devices, a suicide bomber and numerous enemy combatants, all while trying to meet our objective of finding and extracting a VIP," said Army Reserve Sgt. Alexandro Magana, a cable systems installer/maintainer and native of Redding, Pennsylvania, assigned to Company B, 392nd Expeditionary Signal Battalion, 335th SC (T). "It was great training and definitely challenging, but it allowed you to learn something without being overwhelmed. I've only done this once in my career, so being able to do this again was a great opportunity."
"Overall the urban ops course went great," said Philleo. "We got to use all kinds of good training aides to make it as realistic as possible. The troops enjoyed it and they got some good training out of it."
After the three teams of Soldiers cleared the town and completed the event, they were given a short break then presented with an even more physically demanding challenge...the obstacle course.
The course consisted of 16 different obstacles including wooden walls, a cargo net climb, a low crawl under barbed wire, rope climbs, tunnels and a ladder climb.
"We really wanted to see what the Soldiers could physically do after being pushed all morning in the urban operations course," said Philleo. "So we brought them out here to see what they still had left in the tank."
Some of the Soldiers flew through the course with little or no problem, while others struggled to complete all the challenges.
"This obstacle course was much more challenging that I anticipated," said Magana. "I find myself to be in good all around shape, but when you compete against other individuals it really kicks it up a notch. This event really challenged my upper body and my forearm strength. It's something I wish I had prepared more for."
One Soldier stood out in the challenge, Army Reserve Spc. Julian Ditona, a multi-channel transmission systems operator/maintainer, assigned to the 98th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, 335th SC (T). He completed the course in three minutes and 26 seconds, almost a full minute before any of his fellow competitors.
"It was definitely not easy," he said. "I'm a pretty light and agile dude but climbing is tough. I can climb a rope easy, but going through four obstacles then climbing a rope...that was a beast."
Once the Soldiers completed the course, they were done for the day, but they still have two more days left in the competition. Days that are chocked full of more challenges and surprises.
"Up to now we have been pushing these Soldiers physically, and now we are about to hit the mental portion of the competition," said Philleo. "Now that they are good and tired, sunburned and wind burned and their body is struggling, we are going to see what their mind can do."