JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq - Soldiers from across Iraq gathered here March 18-19 to compete in the 3d Sustainment Command (Expeditionary)'s Sustainer Challenge competition, a team-based event designed to test the limits of physical endurance, combat skills and team spirit.

More than 130 participants from 21 battalions competed in seven events, including a five-mile road march in full combat gear, weapons qualification, a timed humvee tire change, a physical fitness test and modern Army combatives tournament. The challenge was designed to promote team building and esprit de corps centered on events representing the forty warrior tasks and 11 battle drills every Soldier is expected to know.

Brig. Gen. Michael J. Lally, the 3d ESC commanding general, said the most successful teams were those that worked together. He said the Army today - just like the U.S. Army throughout its history - has fought and won battles as teams, not as individuals.

"The team that can shoot, move, fight, maintain and win together will come out on top," Lally said to the participants at the beginning of the competition.

Each team consisted of five competitors and one coach, and was required to include an officer, a female and a Soldier at least 30 years old.

Command Sgt. Maj. Willie C. Tennant, Sr., the 3d ESC senior noncommissioned officer said every participant learned something through the training process and during the two days of competition. He said every participant came out a better Soldier than when they started.

"Every task we did the last two days had something to do with combat operations," Tennant said. "We took the foundation of what the Army has asked every Soldier to do and packaged it for this competition."

Tennant said the competition was designed to be a team concept. The goal wasn't to find the strongest or fastest team - it was to find the team that worked the best together, he said.

"It gives Soldiers an opportunity to refine Soldier skills, work with teammates and evaluate their skills as an overall Soldier," Tennant said.

Three individual awards were given to Soldiers who stood out from their peers. The Warrior Ethos Award was given to Chad Touchet, from the 330th Transportation Battalion, for best representing the spirit of teamwork throughout the competition.

The other two individual awards went to the best all-around male and female champions based on the individual points they received in the litter carry, physical fitness test and combatives.

The male award went to Spc. Shawn Jepsen from the 157th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 10th Sustainment Brigade. The female award went to Cpt. Sara Zerr from the 10th Sust. Bde.

The winner of the team competition was Rockville, Md.'s 398th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 10th Sust. Bde.

Command Sgt. Maj. Ronald C. Merritt, the senior NCO for the 398th CSSB, said the unit's success was due to their commitment and diversity. He said their team consisted of military occupational specialties such as mechanic, chaplain assistant and small arms NCO.

"Their varied backgrounds, experience and their ability to bring all that knowledge together to train and compete made each other stronger," Merritt said, a native of Chicago, Ill., "The combination of everything worked out for them during this competition."

Each participant of the winning team, including the coach received an Army Commendation Medal, a gold medallion, a certificate of achievement and a commander's coin for excellence.

First place team: 398th CSSB, Rockville, Md.
Aca,!Ac 1st Lt. Timothy Koenig
Aca,!Ac Staff Sgt. Janelle Jackson
Aca,!Ac Staff Sgt. Daniel Hewitt
Aca,!Ac Sgt. Antonio Lopez
Aca,!Ac Sgt. Brent Jefferson
Aca,!Ac Coach - Master Sgt. Steven Russell
Second place team: 10th Sust. Bde., Fort Drum, N.Y.
Aca,!Ac Cpt. Saul Arroyo
Aca,!Ac Cpt. Sara Zerr
Aca,!Ac Sgt Rickie Johnson
Aca,!Ac Spc. Ryan Borjas
Aca,!Ac Pfc. Shelby Lytle
Aca,!Ac Coach - Staff Sgt. Katie Kuiper

Third place Team: 391st CSSB, Bamberg, Germany
Aca,!Ac 1st Lt. Zachary Pfannenstiel
Aca,!Ac Staff. Sgt. Carmen Boyd
Aca,!Ac Sgt. Ahmad Mahmoud
Aca,!Ac Sgt. Ronald Marshal
Aca,!Ac Spc. Mathew Garcia
Aca,!Ac Coach - 2nd Lt.
Aca,!Ac Sgt. 1st Class Eric Helmer

Story by Sgt. Crystal Reidy, 123 mobile public affairs detachment.
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