JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. - Two Soldiers from Dental Health Command-Pacific (DHC-P) are at their home stations currently preparing for the Regional Health Command-Pacific's (RHC-P) Best Warrior competition that is less than a month away.

Sgt. Harold Cortes and Spc. Conrad Norman were recently named the DHC-P's Best Warriors following a late February competition at JBLM that identified the best noncommissioned officer and Soldier competitors.

"The competition was an excellent tool to conduct Soldier self-assessment," said Cortes, who serves as the supply noncommissioned officer for Torii Station Dental Clinic Okinawa, U.S. Army Dental Health Activity Japan. "After winning the competition, I have come to realize there is so much to learn. The importance of our military training and the standards within the training are fundamental to all Soldiers."

Through the competition, Cortes said he identified areas where he can improve and created a plan to work on them ahead of the upcoming regional event.

"I will continue reading Army regulations, Army doctrines and maintaining my physical fitness," Cortes said.

Meanwhile, Norman, who is assigned to the 618th Dental Company (AS), 65th Medical Brigade in Korea, said though he breathed a sigh of relief after completing the "grueling competition," he quickly realized there was little time left for relaxation as he prepares for the regional competition. Since the DHC-P competition, he said he was been studying to become more knowledgeable in subject areas where he may be tested, exercising more and challenging himself to consume more fruits and vegetables to maintain his health.

"The competition was very challenging," Norman said. "It is important that all soldiers, regardless of their MOS, have the basic knowledge and skills of the Army warrior tasks and battle drills. This competition helped broaden my knowledge and reinforced the skills I already possessed. The knowledge and skills we learn not only help us to be combat ready but also helps in our everyday life."

The knowledge and skills necessary to be combat ready are exactly what Sgt. Maj. Michele Johnson, DHC-P sergeant major, hoped to unearth as she searched for the "heart of the Soldier" in the DHC-P Best Warrior competition.

"Not only is this supposed to be physically tasking but it's also mentally tasking. We want to find the Soldier who can compete at the region level," Johnson said. "We want to showcase that our dental soldiers can compete on the same battlefield as everybody else."

Johnson added that while the events of the competition may not be a "normal day" for a Soldier in a dental health activity, she was impressed by the motivation and dedication of the competitors.
"In the medical field, you always have to be ready to deploy at any time because our mission is a worldwide mission every single day. We practice readiness every day," Johnson said. "But some things we don't always get to do when we're in the (dental) clinics. We don't always get to do our Soldier tasks. So this gives us the ability to get those Soldiers' tasks complete, to simulate battlefield situations so that they're ready to go whenever the nation calls."

The competition brought together seven competitors -- three noncommissioned officers and four Soldiers -- from dental units all over the Pacific -- Japan, Alaska, Korea, JBLM and Hawaii. It included a physical fitness test, weapons range, confidence course, EGRESS training, day and night land navigation, Army Warrior Tasks examination, combatives, a road march and an oral board.

The JBLM Dental Health Activity was responsible for organizing this year's DHC-P Best Warrior Competition.

"The intent was to ensure we had highly ready to deploy Soldiers that knew all the tasks for Soldiers -- Army warrior tasks," said Capt. Renzo Begazo, JBLM Dental Health Activity troop commander.

Additionally, he said, the local activity used the competition as a training event.

"We decided to treat the competition as a teaching moment because our guys aren't always exposed to Army operations like in other units," he said.

The unit began with mission analysis and applying principles of the military decision making process to ensure a successful event. They worked with units across JBLM that may have more experience or expertise in planning items like land navigation or weapons qualifications to plan those components of the competition.

"With good networking and mission analysis, they were able to put it all together. They exceeded all the expectations," Begazo said.

The RHC-P Best Warrior competition will take place May 1 to 5 in Hawaii.

Norman and Cortes are both looking forward to the challenge and the chance to continue to bear the title of Best Warrior.

"I believe being a Best Warrior means that I have displayed great military bearing, professionalism, physical fitness and knowledge in the subject areas given during the competition. A Best Warrior is an exemplary and outstanding soldier that all peers can emulate," Norman said.

And to Cortes, being a Best Warrior means being "engaged and committed to become a better leader and share the experiences with others that can benefit from them."

The winners of the RHC-P competition will represent the region at the Army Medical Command Best Warrior competition July 24 to 28. The winners of that competition will compete in the 2017 Department of Army Noncommissioned Officer and Soldier of the Year competition Oct. 2 to 11.