By Sgt. Zachary Sheely, 100th Missile Defense Brigade Public Affairs OfficeJune 13, 2018
Colorado Springs, Colorado -- Following a rigorous week of competition to determine the Best Warriors of U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command, participants were afforded a little R&R -- rocks and rappelling.
With the guidance of the Fort Carson Morale, Welfare and Recreation Office, the Best Warrior Competition participants and support Soldiers partook in the challenge of Colorado rock climbing in the Shelf Road Recreation Area near Cañon City June 8.
"They've been competing against one another all week in a very stressful event," said Sgt. Maj. Heather Smith, SMDC G-3 sergeant major. "After the competition is over, I like to include a team-building event to bring everyone back together, working toward one goal. It combines a noncompetitive event with an experience I know most of them have probably never had before."
The SMDC Best Warrior Competition took place June 4-8 at Fort Carson and Peterson Air Force Base and featured the winners from the SMDC Pacific, Western, Eastern and European regions.
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, an 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.
Of the seven competitors, only one had ever rock climbed outdoors before, but Smith said you would never know it by the end of the day.
"Their inexperience and fear of heights works against them in the beginning," said Smith, "but they learned to trust their equipment and trust their teammate on belay while the rest of the Soldiers are down below cheering them on."
The Soldiers hiked roughly one mile to reach their destination, a scabrous, vertical limestone crag protruding hundreds of feet high. The cliff's face was adorned with small metal anchors indicating climbing routes lining the escarpment from base to apex.
The Soldiers, outfitted with climbing shoes, harnesses, ropes and carabiners, were given instruction from the MWR rock-climbing experts. They learned how to tie clove and friction hitch knots and how to belay to keep a climber from falling too far by using friction on the rope.
The climbing was up to them, determined by their strength, skill level and confidence.
"Now it's all about the climber on the rock and no longer about the competition," said Smith. "When the climber gets to the top of the rock, they really feel like they've accomplished something."
Spc. Lauren Pauzus, the senior local area network manager for the 100th Missile Defense Brigade in Colorado Springs, has rock climbed indoor courses before, but said climbing an actual rock face was more challenging and rewarding.
"It's like a big puzzle," said Pauzus. "You don't want to stop. We were all sore from the competition, but once I started climbing, I totally forgot about the soreness and just focused on my next hand and foot hold.
"Once I reached the top, I just felt a wave of relief and took in the awesome view. It was an outstanding experience."
Smith said that while she could have given the competitors a day off to rest and recover, she wanted to give them an experience to remember and also to instill in them the possible team-building activities they could lead when they are tasked to plan a unit outing.
"We flew them here from all over the world to one of the most beautiful parts of our country," said Smith, "so I wanted to show them something different to create that shared experience that hopefully they will never forget."