By Andy Massanet, Fort Riley Public AffairsJuly 7, 2017
FORT RILEY, Kan. -- When Spc. Lillian Lewis, a chaplain's assistant of Morris Hill Chapel with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, United States Army Garrison Fort Riley, decided to compete in the Best Warrior Competition for the chance to earn recognition as the Installation Management Command's 2017 Soldier of the Year, she knew she needed a program to help her prepare.
So, she said, she went through her chain of command, which led her to Capt. Robert Deppa, commander for HHC USAG 1st Replacement Company, and 1st Sgt. Jason Hasby, of the same unit.
According to the Army's Best Warrior Competition website, the event amounts to a comprehensive testing of a Soldier's intellectual and physical skills as a professional Soldier.
"Warriors must have command of their appearance and knowledge of the Army," the website says. "Competitors are assessed by their breadth and depth of knowledge on areas such as military leadership and counseling, current events, U.S. Army history, tactical communications, survival, battle-focused training, weapons, U.S. government and Constitution, land navigation, the NCO Creed and history and myriad other focus areas."
For the tasks that didn't require an aspect of physical training, Lewis was assisted by Hasby.
"My role was to help her with some of the (warrior) tasks she would have to accomplish -- Soldier tasks, medical training, things like that," Hasby said.
That type of training included time at various locales within the Training Support Center at Fort Riley, such as the Medical Simulation Training Center, where all Soldiers are required to hone their skills applying initial medical treatment for wounded comrades on the battlefield.
However, the heart of her training program was the physical preparation, and that, Hasby said, "was pretty much left to the CO."
Deppa, an armor officer, looked at the competition requirements then used methods he was familiar with in helping Soldiers of armor units get fit and he said he believes it works.
"In my view as a commander this is as effective a training program as I've seen," Deppa said. "We just kind of built it around the requirements of the competition. I looked at the requirements, what events there would be, then built the training plan designed to help her accomplish those tasks."
Lewis would have to endure a full Army physical fitness test that included push-ups, sit-ups, 2-mile run and a 12-mile foot march. She also needed the stamina to carry out her warrior tasks in full battlefield gear, which included packs ranging from 35 to 45 pounds, Lewis said.
Deppa is quick to point out training for a Soldier is different than training for a sport.
"Solder training is so much different than regular athletic training," he said. "If you are an athlete, you might train to run, if that's your sport, or you might train with weightlifting, but in the military world you really have to build what I call power endurance. So you have to be able to move weight over time and really what that means is you have to move on the battlefield with a kit on, you have to be able to carry stuff, you have to be able to carry someone who's wounded if need be. So there's just a lot of different types of fitness in there. You have to be able to navigate obstacles and things like that."
Deppa also said while athletic training is very often specialized, the military requires what he calls "functional fitness."
"That means you have to be an endurance athlete, to have to be able to carry a ruck, you have to be able to run, but equally important is your ability (to) lift weight," he said.
"If you can't move a 200-pound person with a kit on, then you're not going to be effective."
The training is also progressive, so once a certain level of fitness is reached, Deppa said, the intensity is raised.
"It only gets tougher," he said. "It never gets easier and no workout is the same."
Lewis said about 40 percent of her total Best Warrior Competition experience involved some form of lifting of either a person or an object.
"And a lot of that was our ruck sacks and the assault packs we had to carry," she said. "The assault pack is about 30 pounds and the ruck sacks are heavier; maybe 40 or 45 or pounds."