By Mr. Steven P Stover (INSCOM)April 25, 2018
FORT GORDON, Ga. -- There is an old Army axiom sergeants like to say when the weather turns bad: "If it's not raining, then we're not training."
Nothing could have been further from the truth for the first day of the 780th Military Intelligence (MI) Brigade (Cyber) Best Warrior Competition (BWC) which saw more than an inch of rain.
"Welcome to Georgia," stated one of the brigade BWC cadre members.
The competition, which took place April 23 through 25, was held to determine the organization's top warrior Soldier and noncommissioned officer (NCO), and those two champions will represent the brigade at the North Region U.S. Army Intelligence & Security Command (INSCOM) BWC in May.
The two Soldiers who braved the elements in the grueling three-day competition and will represent the brigade at the next BWC are: Spc. Alexander Musarra from Miami, Florida, and Sgt. Savannah Matelski, from Brandenburg, Kentucky. Spc. Mursarra is currently assigned to Company B, 782nd MI Battalion (Cyber), headquartered at Fort Gordon, and is the brigade's top Soldier; and Sgt. Savannah Matelski, is assigned to Company D, 781st MI Battalion (Cyber), headquartered at Fort Meade, Maryland, and is the brigade's top NCO.
"I think it's a huge honor to represent the 780th MI Brigade, along with being part of the CPB -- it is kind of like a dual-hatted honor," said Matelski. Although Matelski is assigned to the 780th MI Brigade, her team receives her operational requirements from the Cyber Protection Brigade (CPB). "I personally want to thank my leadership, including Staff Sgt. (Jeff) Newsome (her mentor), who have been very supportive of my training and everything, and my Family for getting me to where I am today."
Along with thanking his leadership and mentor, Staff Sgt, Aaron Bailey, Musarra credited the other competitors, specifically Spc. Francisco Ramos, Co. C, 781st MI Battalion, for challenging him throughout the competition.
"Moving forward means a lot because I know I put a lot of effort into this both before and during the competition," said Musarra. "But I am also grateful…to have the opportunity to move forward and maintain a determined, but humble perspective on the whole thing."
On day one of the brigade BWC, the first event started at 5:20 a.m. and the day did not end until 9 p.m. As with most BWC events, the competition started with an Army Physical Fitness Test. After the competitors performed personal hygiene and had a light breakfast, they were right back at it. Other day-one events included: Army Warrior Tasks; a day and night land navigation course; M4A1 carbine rifle and military M9 9mm pistol familiarization; M4A1 zero and qualification; and an M4A1 Stress Shoot exercise.
During the Stress Shoot exercise competitors were given ten seconds to study a poster with four numbered targets. The Roman numeral on each target designated the number M4A1 rounds competitors would place into each target. The cadre informed competitors a ten-round magazine would be waiting for them at their firing point, and they were to lock and load that magazine once each competitor. After bring given the go signal, competitors ran 100 yards; completed ten burpees with a push-up; ran another 100 yards; completed ten squats; ran another 100 yards; completed ten eight-count push-ups; ran the last 50 yards back to their designated firing point; and fired at the targets. The event was timed, and the number of correctly hit targets, was also tallied.
"For day one, the toughest thing for me was the qualifying range. I didn't get a good zero, one that I was confident with from the beginning, so it kind of shook my confidence on the range," said Musarra. "The stress shoot was challenging as well. I've never done anything like that and I didn't know what to expect, but when it was over it was fun."
On day two of this year's brigade BWC, the competitors began their morning on a 12-mile road march with a 45-pound ruck. Soldiers then completed a written essay before going right into the Army Combat Readiness Test (ACRT) which included: as many leg tucks as they could perform, standing power throw, deadlift, T-pushup, and a shuttle run including two 25 meter sprints, a 90-pound sled pull and then a hand carry of two 40-pound kettle bells. The ACRT ended with a two-mile run, which after the road march was exceptionally grueling for each competitor.
"The toughest thing for me was the 12-mile ruck, because yesterday, during the land nav, rucking it with a 35-pound ruck, that was something that I hadn't done before," said Matelski. "We did about ten miles total, along with night land nav with a 30-pound ruck; and then to increase to 45-pounds, which was 15 pounds more than what I was used to -- it was really difficult."
At the end of the second day, Command Sgt. Maj. James Krog, the senior enlisted leader for the 780th MI Brigade (Cyber), asked the competitors, "Two days of hell, but did you have fun?"
Krog stated the event organizers deliberately compressed the schedule of the competition to challenge the competitors after talking to last year's Soldier of the Year, Sgt. Johnny Long, who competed and was the champion at the brigade, North Region INSCOM, INSCOM, and U.S. Army Cyber Command BWC events.
"We purposely stacked all the physical events together," said Krog. "One, to see how much heart the competitors had, and two, to see what they need to focus on at the next level."
In addition to identifying the brigade's best warrior Soldier and NCO, Krog stated the competition sets these competitors apart from their peers.
"These Soldiers volunteered to do this, above and beyond what they do every day," said Krog. "The Army Best Warrior Competition not only builds esprit de corps, but it identifies those Soldiers who aspire to do greater things."
Both Musarra and Matelski plan on using the next two weeks recover and do more ruck marches, hone their land navigation skills, go to the rifle range, and shore up on their Army knowledge.