Forty-five of the best military police Soldiers from across the nation, and Army components, converged on Fort Leonard Wood Sept. 16 through 19 for the U.S. Army Military Police School's 2017 MP Competitive Challenge event.

This annual competition includes events designed to challenge the wits and endurance of competitors.

"This contest was more physically demanding than I thought it would be," said Spc. Justin Martinez, 860th MP Company, Arizona National Guard. "My feet are sore after the first day, and the lack of sleep makes the mental tests that much more challenging."

Each day started with an early rise and an unknown-distance road march to a training area where individual points started accumulating from a series of physical and written exams.

Sgt. Nicholas Jacobs, 855 MP Company, Arizona National Guard, explained how the competition was not as simple as running, jumping, rucking and lifting.

"They beat you down, then throw in the mental stuff to see if you can push through and maintain," Jacobs said. "Answers that normally come easily are suddenly hard."

The physical exercises were dovetailed with written tasks. For example, one event started with the day's second four-mile road march -- which followed several sand bag carries, rope climbs and shooting events -- that ended at the CS gas chamber. Competitors then donned their protective masks and entered the building. At that point, they began a timed written exam and, upon completion or time expiration, they removed their masks and took a deep breath before exiting the chamber.

Another obstacle stemmed from the diversity of knowledge Soldiers were tested on. In addition to standard military police knowledge, there were questions and tasks related to internment and resettlement, criminal investigations and working dog handler military occupational specialties.

"This competition opens my eyes to the knowledge I don't have," Martinez said. "It points out our soft points and gives me something to think about when I go back to my unit."

Command Sgt. Maj. James Breckinridge, USAMPS command sergeant major, said there were approximately 150 Soldiers that had some part in helping shape the competition, from planning to execution.

"Our goal was to provide (the competitors) a competition that they would be proud to say they were a part of," Breckinridge said.

Breckinridge said he was very happy with the turnout for this year's competition, siting representation from the active, National Guard and Reserve components as well as all MP military occupational specialty codes.

"We have 31 deltas in this formation, we have 31 kilos, 31 echos and 31 bravos…every single one of our disciplines is sitting in this formation," he said.

Breckinridge said organizers will be changing the events up for next year's competition which is currently scheduled for Sept. 16 to 18, 2018, at Fort Leonard Wood.

(Editor's note: Capt. Aaron Thacker, Arizona National Guard Public Affairs Office, contributed to this article.)