FORT BRAGG, N.C. - Sweat was dripping and a few choice words were said as medical personnel contemplated an obstacle they faced at the Fort Bragg Leader's Reaction Course as part of the Regional Health Command-Atlantic Best Medic Competition, Sept. 18.
The competition challenged the mental and physical toughness of each two-person team as they faced obstacles and events Sept. 18 through 20.
"None of the competitors know what is going to take place over the next few days," said Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Stoddard, Womack Army Medical Center. "The physical aspect of this competition is going to be challenging, but the mental aspect is going to be just as challenging. They're not going to know where they're going or what's coming next."
The competitors' days started early and their nights ran long as they faced numerous events testing their mettle and ability to work together as a team. The competition started with an early morning combat physical fitness test, followed by range qualification, an obstacle course and the LRC. The next day tested their skills as Soldiers and medics through a number of events and a mass casualty exercise, including a mystery event that involved a swimming challenge. Not to mention the constant road marches thrown in between most events.
"The not knowing what's next is a great resiliency builder," said Sgt. Christian Ozorio, who competed as a member of the Womack Army Medical Center team and serves a behavioral health technician and the noncommissioned officer in charge of the West Bragg Embedded Behavioral Health Clinic. "We just have to move forward and once we find out what's next, attack it head on and execute."
Ozorio said he that resilience he built through the mental and physical challenges he faced not only helped carry him through the competition, but will help him overcome future obstacles he may encounter at work and throughout his career.
Brig. Gen. R. Scott Dingle, commanding general, RHC-A, said that competitions like this are important because they help simulate some of the difficulties they may face when deployed and providing combat health support on the battlefield.
"(They're) pushing themselves beyond their physical, mental and emotional capabilities so that when they are in combat, they can meet any challenge that comes," said Dingle. "This competition is preparing them for those challenges."
In the end, only one team could represent the region in October. The team from Public Health Command-Atlantic, comprised of Capt. Jeremy Lewis, assigned to PHC at Fort Bragg, and Staff Sgt. Joseph Karslo, a food inspection NCO, out of Fort Dix, New Jersey, took first place and will begin preparing for the Army-level competition. The two had never met before the competition, but were able to quickly learn how to communicate with each other and overcome the obstacles they faced throughout the event.
"We both have competed in best medic competitions before," said Lewis about his experience in this year's event with his partner Karslo. "Going into it you never know what to expect, especially with a partner you're only just meeting, but we've really been able to work well together and I'm looking forward to the challenges ahead."