Two Soldiers preparing to compete in the Army's Best Warrior Competition later this month came to Fort Campbell Sept. 11 -- 22 for some final training from NCO's at the U.S. Army Medical Department Activity Fort Campbell.
Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Taylor, a medical NCO stationed at Moncrief Army Health Clinic, Fort Jackson, South Carolina and Sgt. Roberto Saenz, a preventive medicine specialist stationed at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Bethesda, Maryland were selected to represent U.S. Army Medical Command in the Army-wide competition. The Best Warrior Competition challenges 11 NCOs and 11 Soldiers in a six-day mental and physical challenge to determine who will earn the designation as the 2017 Department of the Army NCO and Soldier of the Year.
According to the Army's Best Warrior Competition site, Warriors must have command of their appearance, military bearing, and knowledge of the Army. They will face a Command Sergeants Major Board where they will be assessed on their knowledge of military leadership, U.S. Army history, tactical communications, survival, battle-focused training, weapons and more. Competitors will take an exam on Army-related topics and write an essay on a surprise topic to further demonstrate their knowledge and communication skills. They will take a physical fitness test to assess their individual fitness levels and must successfully site an M4 rifle. All competitors are expected to be proficient in more than 40 warrior tasks and battle drills and will face a mystery event to see how they react under mental and physical stress.
With the stakes high, commands across the Army regularly implement special training regimens to prepare their candidates. In fact, Taylor and Saenz previously trained with the MEDDAC at Fort Campbell prior to winning the MEDCOM Best Warrior title.
"We hosted the Regional Health Command-Atlantic Best Warrior Competition in March. The regional leadership was so impressed with the facilities we were able to utilize at Fort Campbell and how we ran the competition that the winners of the region Best Warrior were sent back to us to train before the MEDCOM Best Warrior. Then Taylor and Saenz went to MEDCOM Best Warrior and won," said 1st Sgt. Erin Trudden, Blanchfield Army Community Hospital Medical Company First Sergeant. With the MEDCOM Best Warrior win under their belts, Saenz and Taylor returned to Fort Campbell yet again to train under the leadership of the MEDDAC NCOs.
Trudden and the NCOs put together a training program featuring a multitude of scenarios and activities to give Taylor and Saenz more knowledge and experience to better prepare them for the Best Warrior Competition. Their training schedule included land navigation, engagement skills trainer, weapons training, tactical combat casualty care, air assault and pre-ranger training, interview board preparation and basically any Army skill from A to Z you could think of, said Trudden. It also demonstrated the power of NCOs working to bring it all together.
"They are good. Exceptional at their craft and skill and showing me what needs to be done correctly, to the standards. It's an awesome experience," said Taylor of his experience working with the NCOs in the MEDDAC.
Staff Sgt. Marie Rubin is one of the MEDDAC NCO's who helped prepare Taylor and Saenz during their first visit to Fort Campbell. "Of course it made us feel great to see that they won. We had no doubt they were going to go to MEDCOM and bring it back home for our region. Whatever else we could do to make sure they are prepared when they go to Best Warrior, we're ready to do it," said Rubin, who provided training on a range of weapons from an individual service weapon to a .50-caliber machine gun. Having recently completed a tour as a drill instructor at Fort Sill, Oklahoma she shared her expertise on the break down and assembly of these weapons and helped Taylor become more proficient.
Another MEDDAC NCO, Staff Sgt. Joseph Brown, provided Tactical Combat Casualty Care training at the Alfred V. Rascon School of Combat Medicine, here. The school features training simulators that can create physical conditions similar to what Soldiers may experience during a deployment. "I had Taylor treat one casualty under three scenarios of increasing stress and difficulty ranging from the lights being on and minimal distractions for the first iteration to the lights being turned off, fog/strobes being utilized plus loud combat sounds being played as distractors during the final iteration."
In all, MEDDAC NCOs provided 11 days of training to help their fellow MEDCOM Soldiers prepare for Best Warrior, accomplished in large part with the support from various units on post. "We have no assets other than the hospital. We don't have any training assets at BACH. We just utilized our resources and people we knew and pretty much networked our way into setting up the training. We've reached out to units all across this post to get this done and different NCOs rogered-up to take their part and make it happen," said Trudden in a testament to the support of the Army NCO community at Fort Campbell.
The 2017 Best Warrior Competition is Sept. 30 -- Oct. 6 at Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia and the Pentagon. Winners will be announced at the Sergeant Major of the Army's Award Luncheon Oct. 9.