FORT DEVENS, Mass. -- Despite the cold rain and muddy conditions, 22 Army Reserve Soldiers from the 80th Training Command and 99th Regional Support Command pushed themselves through the combined commands' annual Best Warrior Competition here, April 3-5, 2017. The winners were announced at the BWC awards ceremony on April 6, 2017.
In the three-day competition, Soldiers were tested on their physical and mental fortitude and agility as they tackled basic warrior skills and Army physical fitness to prove who is the best noncommissioned officer and enlisted Soldier. This competition also supports the development of the capable, lethal and combat-ready force known as the Army Reserve.
On day one, they conducted the Army Physical Fitness Test, a written essay and a knowledge exam. They also appeared before the sergeants major board, in which they were quizzed on current events, military leadership, Army Regulations, and U.S. Army history. Part of the board required the non-commissioned officers to recite the NCO Creed, and those with specialist and below ranks recited the Soldier's creed.
Day two had the competitors prove their marksmanship with the M16-A2 rifle and 9mm pistol. Following the weapons ranges, competitors loaded up with a 35-pound ruck sack and their assigned rifles, and hiked a 6.2-mile ruck march.
The events on day three demanded the most physically grueling challenges, as competitors raced through day land navigation, a one-and-a-half-mile obstacle course, and night land navigation. The obstacle course included a log maze, running through tires, a high crawl under concertina wire, crossing a bridge constructed of cables and steel rods, a grenade throw/window dive, and many other obstacles. The Soldiers raced against the clock in the day's events, in which they were ranked on their completion times.
Maj. Gen. A.C. Roper, commanding general of the 80th TC, made a special visit to the night land navigation. "I was really impressed with the confidence and skills of all the competitors," said Roper. "It made me proud to see them learn how to adapt to the limited visibility and still excel in this event."
To prepare for this command-level competition, Soldiers who volunteered to compete were not alone. Sponsors assisted the competitors by working one-on-one with them, many months out from the event, by helping them study and conducting physical training with them.
"Sponsors were actually doing the events with their competitors. To me, that was impressive," said Brig. Gen. Jose Burgos, deputy commanding general of the 99th RSC. "The sponsors were not expected to do that, but they went above and beyond by encouraging and supporting their Soldiers to the very end."
Staff Sgt. Marcy DiOssi was named the Best Warrior for the 80th TC. The 80th's runner up was Sgt. Timothy Schroeder.
"I couldn't believe it when my name was called," said DiOssi. "As soon as we got our awards, I called my husband to let him know I won. He said he already knew because he saw the ceremony live, as it was happening. I had no idea the public affairs Soldiers had done a live-streaming of the whole ceremony."
For the 99th RSC NCO category, the winner and runner up were Sgt. Curtis Presley, of the 380th Army Band, and Sgt. Shafer Burnett, of the 78th Army Band. The 99th RSC enlisted category winner and runner up were Spc. Aaron Chavers, of the 198th Army Band, and Spc. John Fitzmaurice, of the 380th Army Band.
There were also winners for each of the three one-star divisions under the 80th TC. These were Schroeder, of the 100th Training Division (Operations Support); Sgt. 1st Class Jorge Gonzalez-Mendoza, of the 94th Training Division (Force Sustainment), and DiOssi, of the 102nd Training Division (Maneuver Support).
The genuine excitement and support the competitors had for one another demonstrate what the competition is all about. Although not every soldier would win, competitors showed their esprit de corps by encouraging and helping one another.
"I had seen documentaries of this (Best Warrior Competition) when I was a little kid, so I was excited to find out I had the opportunity to compete," said competitor Spc. Adam Parent. "I like how we help each other and work as a team, even though we all want that top prize."
Command Sgt. Maj. Jeff Darlington, command sergeant major for the 80th TC, praised the competitors, their sponsors, and the leadership. "This competition brings out the best in our warriors," he said. "I'm proud to see the competitors and their sponsors' motivation and discipline."
DiOssi, Presley, and Chavers will move up to the Army Reserve level of the BWC at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, June 11-17, 2017.