GRAFENWOEHR, Germany - The best of the best from 7th Army Training Command's enlisted and officer ranks alike battled at the Army's test of strength, endurance, Soldier-skills and mental quickness known as the Best Warrior Competition.

Having overcome physical challenges, sleep deprivation and mental stress during the grueling three-day-long 7th ATC Best Warrior Competition, 1st Lt. Robert L. Martin, Staff Sgt. Cesar Gonzalez and Spc. Derek Teegardin, all from 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, are named as this year's winners. With their victory, the three win the title of 7th ATC's best commissioned Officer, Noncommissioned Officer and Soldier, respectively.

Best Warrior, an annual three-day competition among Soldiers from the 7th ATC, includes physical fitness challenges including an Army physical fitness test, 12-plus mile ruck march and obstacle course, military skills tests such as marksmanship and combatives, and even an academic component, as Soldiers are tested on their knowledge of Army history and current events, among other subjects. These Soldiers would have their ability to perform a variety of warrior tasks and battle drills throughout different scenarios tested and face an oral examination board.
"The biggest takeaway from this competition for me is to learn the basics and master them," said Staff Sgt. Cesar Gonzalez, "I will take them back and teach my Soldiers."

The competition started for eight competitors with an early morning non-standard physical training test, ending the run at the start of the next event, the obstacle course. Upon arriving and with minimal guidance, the Soldiers had to immediately prepare to start the course without time to recover.

The afternoon of day one, competitors found themselves on the range where they were required to qualify with the M-9 pistol, zero and qualify with the M-4 carbine followed by weapons disassembly and assembly of a variety of weapons they may not use on a daily basis, but may be called upon to one day to put them into action. Day one ended after a very long day for the competitors with day and night land navigation.
As day two began for some competitors at the chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) lane while others were challenged at range 123 with a stress shoot.

Competitors at the CBRN lane were set into action with blaring siren from an M-8 Automatic Chemical Agent Alarm System. This alarm would get them in Mission Oriented Protective Posture (MOPP) gear level 4 and end with un-masking inside the gas chamber.

On range 123, competitors would be challenged with rigorous exercise mimicking battlefield conditions, including evacuating casualties using the skedco litter (SKED) and carrying full ammo cans while running to firing points. Despite their exhaustion, the Soldiers then had to shoot several rounds at popup targets, their accuracy and time deciding how many points each would get.

The end of day two concluded with writing of an essay on personal readiness and an appearance in front of the Sergeants Major oral examination board to test their knowledge on Army history, current events and general Army knowledge.

With the end in sight, competitors started day three before the sun come up with a road march of just over 13 miles and ended with a demonstration of their combatives knowledge and tournament.

"I learned a lot from doing the competition, I know what I now need to work on," said 1st Lt. Robert L. Martin. "It was a trying competition both physically and mentally, it was a good competition all in all."

The winners of the 7th ATC Best Warrior Competition will move on to compete in the U.S. Army Europe Best Warrior Competition.

"It means a lot to me, I will be able to represent not just my unit but 7th ATC at the USAEUR competition, that's a big honor for me," said Gonzalez.

With advice to fellow Soldiers who are thinking about competing in Best Warrior and his brother, who is currently in basic training, Spc. Derek Teegardin said, "Don't ever quit, it's simple Soldier tasks. Anything is possible as long as you don't quit and keep the right mindset - you can accomplish anything."