CAMP RED CLOUD, Republic of Korea -- The 2nd Infantry Division/Republic of Korea-U.S. Combined Division hosted the 2018 "Best Warrior Competition" April 9-13 at Camps Casey and Hovey. The annual competition put Soldiers' strength, stamina and military skills to the test.
The weeklong competition featured events in orienteering, physical fitness, land navigation, marksmanship, water survivability, a 12-mile foot march, and a formal board, to identify and recognize the most outstanding officer, warrant officer, non-commissioned officer, junior enlisted Soldier and Korean Augmentation To the United States Army (KATUSA) within the division.
"It's a good test of our physical and mental ability as Soldiers, and to see our KATUSA partners there as well. It just solidifies the partnership and strong bond we have with our ROK partners," said Command Sgt. Maj. Patrick D. Thomas, senior enlisted advisor of the 2nd Inf. Div. Sustainment Brigade and New Orleans native.
For more than 60 years, 2nd Infantry Division Soldiers and the Republic of Korea Army have been working together for peace on the peninsula through a partnership of mutual trust and respect, growing and learning from one another.
"I really enjoy and harness the relationship we have with our KATUSA soldiers," said Sgt. 1st Class Terrance Widmer, a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear specialist assigned to 2nd Inf. Div. SBDE and a native of Ancona, Illinois. "They are proud to be here, and I think that their overall ambition, integrity and loyalty to their country and culture is inspiring. They still seem to hang on to their culture, even though we have a completely different culture and have been here for over 60 years now," he said.
The Best Warrior Competition is not just a competition to highlight the top competitors, but a method for the Army's last remaining permanently forward stationed division, which has the motto "Second to None," to continually train all levels of basic soldiering skills to be successful on the battlefield.
"Best Warrior is mastering the fundamentals and that's the key to success here," said 2ID/RUCD Command Sgt. Maj. Phil Barretto, a native of Honolulu. "It's that true grit that they pull out and that intestinal fortitude to get past that next event; that's the pride that every 2ID Soldier has," he said.
On day two of the competition, during the stress shoot event, the 2ID/RUCD commander, Maj. Gen. D. Scott McKean, a native of San Jose, California, spoke with competitors about the configuration of their tactical gear for the competition. McKean related that to real-world events with the emphasis to be prepared at all times.
McKean also stressed the importance of discipline, comfort and ease with the wear and use of equipment, preparation for the transition from day to night-time training, and getting back to the fundamentals. He charged his non-commissioned officers with passing on their experience to the junior enlisted troops and using Sergeant's Time training for coaching.
Spc. Dylan Dashner, a signal support systems specialist assigned to 2nd Combat Aviation Brigade, Peyton, Colorado native, appreciated what McKean had to say to the group and the overall awareness of his Soldiers, down to the tactical level.
"It was a reality check," said Dashner. "I never would have thought to think of those things until he brought them up; explaining why things are the way they are and to always be prepared," he said.
Sgt. Gregory Sakisat, a cannon crew member assigned to 210th Field Artillery Brigade and Agag, Saipan native, viewed the Best Warrior Competition not only as an experience to better himself, but to encompass lessons learned into his own leadership and mentorship styles for his Soldiers.
"It really opens your eyes to things you can work on, not only as a Soldier, but as a leader," said Sakisat. "Things that you can take away from this competition to incorporate into your PT (physical training) plans, incorporate some of these events over towards Sergeant's Time training, so that our joes are better trained and get the training they deserve," he said.
"There were a lot of times that I was put outside of my comfort zone throughout this competition and I just had to keep motivating myself to push forward," Sakisat added.
The BWC winners are as follows:
Officer: 1st. Lt. James Reed, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division
Warrant Officer: Warrant Officer David Hobart, 2nd Inf. Div. SBDE
NCO: Sgt. 1st Class Terrance Widmer, 2nd Inf. Div. SBDE
Junior Enlisted Soldier: Cpl. Jacob Bee, 1ABCT, 3ID
KATUSA: Cpl. Taeheon Song, 1ABCT, 3ID
"Eight and a half years of training at a very high level; I come here and I still find competition," said Widmer who spent several years at a 75th Ranger Regiment unit. "I still find junior enlisted and KATUSA Soldiers performing on the same level as me, pushing me harder. It's humbling," he said.
"You don't really know what you are made of until you put yourself against your peers, but I think daily discipline can prepare you for every kind of competition in the Army," Widmer explained.
The winners will represent the 2nd Infantry Division/ROK-U.S. Combined Division at the 8th Army's Best Warrior Competition in May.