By Sgt. 1st Class Darron Salzer, First Army Division EastMay 18, 2018
The all-First Army Best Warrior Competition kicked off here March 15, as six competitors from across the country gathered to see who would claim the 'Best Warrior' title.
For three sweltering days the competitors pushed themselves through events that included a 12-mile ruck march, stress shoot, combatives tournament, a confidence and obstacle course, weapons qualification and an Army physical fitness test.
"The competition here is definitely tougher at this level," said Army Staff Sgt. Patrick Braunshausen, a cavalry observer coach/trainer with 1st Maneuver Battalion, 360th Regiment, 5th Armored Brigade, headquartered at Fort Bliss, Texas.
"Everyone here has already won to get to this position," Braunshausen said.
With that on their minds one thing became clear to competitors: becoming the First Army 'Best Warrior' was going to take a lot of heart.
"It's going to take a whole lot of heart," said Sgt. 1st Class Clifton Hall, an observer coach/trainer with 2nd Brigade Engineer Battalion, 315th Regiment, 174th Infantry Combined Arms Training Brigade, headquartered at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey.
"All day long you're doing strenuous activity, and then tomorrow you are going to go into a 12-mile ruck march," Hall said day one," so you absolutely have to push yourself beyond that point where your body asks you "What are you doing?'"
Army Staff Sgt. Frederick Avery agreed.
Avery, a construction engineer observer coach/trainer with 4th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 306th Regiment, 188th Infantry Combined Arms Training Brigade, headquartered at Fort Stewart, Georgia, said a lack of heart makes it easier to give up on yourself -- especially on the ruck march.
"You could easily say 'I'm tired' or 'I'm not going to place where I want to' and throw in the towel. It goes through everyone's head and if you don't have that heart to push yourself through those hard times then you're going to give up a lot," he said.
Avery said he believes this never-quit attitude is what it takes to be the Best Warrior.
"It's a person who's willing to give their all in [this] competition and is the best at adapting to any situation they can throw at you, both physically and mentally, because the competitors at this level will challenge you," he said.
As scores for each event were read aloud at the end of day three, it was Hall who showed he most embodied the 'Best Warrior' spirit and was named the winner for 2018.
"It feels awesome," Hall said of his victory.
"I put in a lot of hard work as far as training physically for it and it paid off in the end," he said referring to his preparations before the competition. "I had some things, injuries, to overcome but when the time came obviously the training that I put into it to overcome all of that is what helped me get the win."
Hall also credits the competitive spirit and camaraderie amongst this year's competitors.
"Getting to meet guys Avery, and Braunshausen and York who are all at the same level and want the same thing you want -- to win -- it helps to build up your spirit in the midst of competition where you feel like you're beat down," he said, "and I think that the competitiveness was awesome."
As the First Army winner Hall will move on to compete in the U.S. Army Forces Command Best Warrior Competition scheduled for later this year, an event where he looks forward to representing his organization.
"Moving forward, I just hope to give my best and win the FORSCOM [competition] for First Army," he said.
"I know I'll be going up against a lot of different Soldiers from different military backgrounds who are 10 times as hungry, but the competition is where it's at."
One enlisted Soldier winner and one noncommissioned officer winner from each U.S. Army major command, such as FORSCOM, will move on to the all-Army Best Warrior Competition scheduled at the end of summer this year.