FORT SILL, Okla. (Jan. 25, 2018) -- Cadre at 1st Battalion, 31st Field Artillery are competing in the battalion's annual Proud American Fitness Challenge. Four-person teams from each battery are taking on weightlifting, and endurance events to determine the winning battery. The competition began Jan. 18 and concludes Jan. 26.

Drill Sergeant (Sgt. 1st Class) Francisco Soto was at the 434th Field Artillery Brigade gym Jan. 19, competing in the Strongman Event (weightlifting). He said he competed for the camaraderie, esprit de corps, and unit cohesion.

"I wanted to see where I stack in the battery and among the battalion," said Soto, who has been on the trail for 18 months. "I did more than I expected with the flat bench press."

D Battery is running the competition, and Drill Sergeant (Staff Sgt.) Joseph Delgado, is the competition's noncommissioned officer in charge and an evaluator. He said many of the Soldiers are from batteries that are in-cycle -- drill sergeants and Soldiers who are also administering basic combat training, while competing in Proud American.

For the Strongman Event, two competitors from each battery bench press, deadlift with the hex bar, and perform a strict military press. They are allowed three repetitions to achieve one maximum lift, Delgado said.

Two other competitors from each battery's team will compete in the Endurance Event next week, Delgado said. That consists of swimming, pull ups, squats, and sprints. Each team must have at least one female member.

Teams are awarded points for each competition, and the battery with the highest average score from the Strongman and Endurance categories will be the overall winner.

Delgado said he was looking for correct form, and logging the competitors' weight lifted. He added that many of the competitors are surprising themselves with how much they find they can lift since they are trying to max out and help their overall team score.

Tamico Payne-Jordan, 434th Field Artillery Brigade public affairs officer, said the competition is in line with the commanding general's overall fitness strategy.

"It's a good thing," she said. "Seeing the drill sergeants and others in the battalion come out and compete shows that they care about their fitness."

Capt. Gregory Minor, A Battery acting commander, said he competed to support his unit and his subordinates, and to push himself.

He maxed 400 pounds on the hex bar. He said that he lifts weights daily.

Minor's teammate Drill Sergeant (Sgt. 1st Class) James Reynolds bench pressed 285 pounds during the competition. He said he enjoys lifting, and that he competed to challenge himself.

He noted that when he joined the Army 16 years ago, he was a skinny, 125-pound 18 year-old. He now weighs about 190 pounds.

Soto said that it was good to see so many competitors despite the high up-tempo of drill sergeant life.

"When you're in cycle, you're busy, you have limited time, and have minimal time to rest," he said. "It's motivating to see so many personnel here despite their high-intensity job."

The winning battery will be recognized with a plaque presented by Lt. Col. Kirk Alexander, 1-31st FA commander, Delgado said.