JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. - For five days, Sgt. 1st Class Brenden Shannon woke up not knowing what was in store for him, but he had one goal: winning the 2017 U.S. Army Forces Command Best Warrior Competition at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
"Competition is key in any Army organization," said, Shannon, the first sergeant of Company C, 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 1-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team. "When we do our jobs in a combat scenario, we are competing against our enemy. It is about who has the best tactics, who is the most adaptable, who can think through whatever dilemma the enemy is presenting to us."
The first day began on Aug. 20, with a combat-focused physical fitness test that included a one mile run in the Army Combat Uniform and body armor, negotiating an obstacle, tire flips, an agility drill, a 240-pound dummy drag and more. He then completed a general Army knowledge quiz and a packing list layout.
"I enjoyed the fitness test," Shannon said as he chuckled. "It was a smoker."
The physical exertion did not stop. Day two brought an unknown distance ruck march over uneven terrain.
"A lot of people train for a 12- miler, so they know how to pace themselves for that distance," Shannon said. "If it is six miles, you think it's easy and run the whole thing. When they give you an unknown distance, that is when you have to focus on the fundamentals of ruck marching such as making sure you are quick but not burning yourself out the whole time."
An M4 Rifle qualification came next, followed by an orienteering event.
At each orienteering point, there was a task that had to be accomplished, said Shannon, who is stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington. The first task for him was hand grenade fundamentals, then camouflage, correcting a malfunction on an M4 Rifle, loading a radio, weapons assembly, and finally a swim through McKellar's Pond.
Shannon and his fellow candidates had previously received a counter-IED class at Fort Bragg that focused on tactics during a dismounted patrol, which he later used on the third day's IED lane.
"We had civilian instructors for that portion," he said. "It was good information that I can retain and bring back to my organization."
That led up to the last event of that day: the confidence course. It consisted of obstacles such as the Confidence Climb, High Step Over, Tough One, Six Vaults, Weaver, Incline Wall, Low Belly Crawl and others.
The competition didn't slow down. Wednesday brought the medical lane where candidates had to demonstrate care under fire procedures and treat a simulated casualty.
They then moved into the stress shoot, said Shannon, a native of Los Angeles, California. They carried water cans for approximately 150 meters and engaged popup targets. After engaging targets, they dragged a litter to the finish point and threw a smoke grenade.
After all the physical strain they were put through, the last day started with an Army Physical Fitness Test and concluded with an oral board.
"You learn a lot out as you prep for the boards," Shannon said. "I am a first sergeant who is digging back into those manuals and broadening my knowledge base. This self-development piece widens Soldiers' scope of knowledge, which makes them more adaptable. This is emphasized in these competitions and these boards."
Shannon started at the 1-2 SBCT Noncommissioned Officer of the Quarter competition and has worked hard to compete in the 7th Infantry Division and I Corps levels. On Aug. 25, he earned the title of FORSCOM's NCO of the year.
"I felt great and I was a little surprised," said Shannon.
"Shannon is a very unique and well-balanced leader," said 1st Sgt. Adam Asclipiadis, the first sergeant for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 5-20th Inf. and Shannon's sponsor the 7th ID NCO of the Quarter competition. "He is very standards-oriented and takes care of Soldiers."
Shannon is probably one of the most selfless NCOs he has ever met, Asclipiadis said. Shannon is very passionate about doing his job and doing it well. He does not accept defeat or leave a job unfinished.
"The command team is extremely proud of Sgt. 1st Class Shannon, not only for his personal accomplishment, but also for showing all the Soldiers within Ghost Brigade what the standard looks like," said Command Sgt. Maj. Christopher Grant, the command sergeant major for 1-2 SBCT. "Leading by example, he is the epitome of our NCO Corps and he will be a force to reckon with at the Army NCO competition later this year."
Shannon will compete against his U.S. Army Reserve and National Guard counterparts at the Army Best Warrior Competition scheduled for Sept. 30 to Oct. 12 at Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia.