By Carrie David Campbell (SMDC/ARSTRAT)June 8, 2018
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colorado - Seven of the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command's top warriors faced off this week to determine who would be the command's 2018 Best Warriors.
The command's regional winners descended on Peterson Air Force Base and Fort Carson to compete in a variety of Soldier skills for the command's Best Warrior Competition, June 4-8.
"What I'd like for you all to take away from this is that these Soldiers did this on their own time," said Command Sgt. Maj. Jerome Wiggins, USASMDC/ARSTRAT's command sergeant major. "This is something they did additional to doing their jobs, and these are the types of Soldiers that we're looking for in the United States Army."
Facing off were three noncommissioned officers and four Soldiers: Sgt. Nicola T. Sciara and Spc. Dylan S. Caramella, Company B, 53rd Signal Battalion, 1st Space Brigade, Fort Meade, Maryland, Eastern Region; Sgt. Eric Roberts and Spc. Lauren A. Pauzus, 100th Missile Defense Brigade, Colorado Springs, Colorado, Western Region; Spc. Fabian Juarez, 1st Space Company, 1st Space Battalion, 1st Space Brigade, Misawa Air Base, Japan, Pacific Region; and Staff Sgt. Kendall Feb and Spc. Aaron Boyers, Company C, 53rd Signal Battalion, Landstuhl, Germany, European Region.
"I'm proud today to stand here and congratulate each and every one of you. Today there can only be one winner, but I can tell you - I had three times to compete before I won it as a Soldier and three times as a staff sergeant before I won it as an NCO - that all you have to do is continue to come back, continue to fight, and never give up on your dream," Wiggins said. "Regardless of what other people tell you, you are your own worst enemy. You can be anything you want to be. Each one of you possesses the desirable traits, attributes and competencies associated with being a professional Soldier, and I appreciate you."
The winners were announced during a ceremony June 7 at the command's operational headquarters on Peterson Air Force Base. The NCO Best Warrior is Feb and the Soldier Best Warrior is Caramella.
SMDC's Deputy Commanding General for Operations, Brig. Gen. Tim Lawson, spoke to the competitors.
"First of all, congratulations. I'd like to echo what CSM Wiggins said, these guys did it on their own. They're all winners. So the ones who just walked off are just as much winners as anybody else in this room," Lawson said. "You volunteered to put this uniform on, and you're doing great things. Then you took it to another step higher by volunteering to stand out ahead of your peers out there and do the things you just did."
Caramella said he spent a lot of hours studying and training.
"I feel relieved, very relieved. It's a lot of hard work, and I got the fruits of my labor, I guess is a good way to put it," he said. "I put a lot of effort into training and studying, but I think next time I need to put more effort into studying for the board. I think that's my biggest deficit, but, yes, I spent a lot of hours studying for everything."
The Soldiers competed in a series of events testing their skills including the Army Physical Fitness Test, day and night land navigation, Army Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills, 12-mile ruck march, combatives, obstacle course, weapons qualification, written common Soldier knowledge examination, written essay, and appearance in front of a board consisting of command sergeants major from across the command.
While the board was Caramella's least favorite event, for Feb it was the 12-mile ruck march.
"It feels good to win. It was a good challenge, honestly. It was something that I looked forward to. I'm glad I was able to win it, and I get to challenge myself again," Feb said. "Surprisingly, the ruck was challenging for me. It was, interestingly enough, supposed to be my strongest event, but those cramps tore me down. That was another level of mental stress that I was in. That was the hardest event."
Feb said land navigation was his favorite. He said that while he felt like he would do well in the event that he did much better than he anticipated. Caramella said he most enjoyed the Army Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills.
"We're controllers, so we have to sit behind a desk all day, but we actually get to do Soldier things that we really would never do," Caramella said. "I never train on this, but here I am doing it proficiently. It's not something I do every day. And it makes you feel like a different kind of Soldier, I guess. I'm a technical Soldier. This makes me feel like a tactical Soldier."
Feb and Caramella will represent the command in the Military District of Washington Best Warrior Competition in August.
Feb said he plans to continue training and studying.
"Physically I'm in a pretty good place," Feb said. "I'm going to continue to train. I can always get better, and then I'm going to study as much as I can between now and the next one because I have time now. And then I'm going to put my best foot forward."
Feb and Caramella both received Army Commendation Medals during the ceremony, but another NCO was also recognized for his efforts. SMDC's Headquarters and Headquarters Company first sergeant, 1st Sgt. Benjamin Sharp, explained to attendees why.
"This event would not have been possible without the help of several people, however one stood out," Sharp said. "Sgt. 1st Class Wolfgang McLachlan, post. This noncommissioned officer helped make this event a success. He went above and beyond to ensure that the Soldiers were taken care of and were provided the best chance to succeed."
Wiggins reminded attendees that enlisted Soldiers comprise most of the Army and are the ones who make things happen.
"At the end of the day, 86 percent of the Army is enlisted," Wiggins said. "We are where the rubber meets the road. We are where we make things happen, and we are right there at the precipice of everything that happens that's good and that's associated with our United States Army."