By Ms. Ashley Patoka (Regional Health Command Europe)September 7, 2018
Each year, Soldiers from across the Army compete in local-level Best Medic Competitions with the goal of advancing to the Army competition. Capt. Stona Jackson is no different -- except that he made it to the Army-level competition last year, and is headed back this year for a chance at redemption.
Jackson, Grafenwoehr Dental Clinic Orthodontist, recently won in the Regional Health Command Europe BMC, for a second year in a row and now he is preparing for his second attempt at the Army-level title.
"The first year didn't go so well, [my partner and I] were 12th out of 29th," Jackson said. "I want to go back and try again -- I really want to win the competition, it is really important to me. So I want to go back and win, and do my best."
Last year, Jackson earned the Expert Field Medical Badge, making him eligible to compete in the BMC. And when asked by his leadership he jumped at the opportunity.
"I think I really like to compete," Jackson said. "I have a chip on my shoulder -- I've always been told no. 'You want to go airborne? No, you're a dentist; You want to go to EFMB? Ah, maybe, if we have room.' So I think a lot of times the dentists don't get the credit we deserve."
Jackson said he wants to prove to everyone that dentists are Soldiers too and "we can do the same sort of skills and we can save lives too. We aren't just hanging out in the tent waiting for someone to get a toothache -- we can be out there helping."
Since competing in Best Medic Competitions, Jackson said he has learned a lot about himself.
First, he has learned to push his limits.
"I feel like these competitions really push my limits," he said. "There was a point last year -- we were in full [protective] gear and we were dragging a casualty uphill in the low crawl and we really wanted to give up. It was 85 degrees, sweat was pouring off of us, but I found I was willing to push a little farther. I was willing to push that casualty up the hill. I like feeling like I know what my limits are, because if you don't know what your limits are, you'll never know what you are capable of.
"This is a leadership experience I want. I want to find my limits and I can't think of any better way."
Second, Jackson has learned what he is really good at.
"You know you live your whole life and you hope you're going to have that moment where you are really good at something without even trying," he said. "And I waited 35 years and I finally found it-- I am really good at ruck marches."
While Jackson said he was motivated to win last year's competition, he has a little extra fire in his belly this year.
In preparation for the upcoming competition, Jackson said he is working out 2-3 times a day, studying before bed and trying to focus on the areas that gave him trouble last year.
This year, Jackson will compete with Sgt. 1st Class Steven Lockwood, Landstuhl Regional Medical Center Troop Command Noncommissioned Officer.
"I'm very motivated to win," he said. "I am really excited to have a great partner -- he has a lot of great medic knowledge -- and that was something we lacked last year. We were two non-medics competing in a medic competition, and it definitely showed. We needed some more medic skills."
One of the highlights of these competitions for Jackson is the interaction he gets with the enlisted Soldiers who are also competing.
"I enjoy learning about the enlisted members that I normally work alongside," he said. "I feel like doing all of these things has given me, maybe just a little glimpse, of what it is like to be enlisted and be a Soldier out there risking your life."
For Jackson, winning the Army BMC is the ultimate goal, not only because he is looking for redemption, but because he wants to prove that a dental Soldier can complete these tasks, and compete at this level.
"It is redemption. I think if our team gets top three I will have proven my point," Jackson said. "But I dream about lifting that trophy on stage."
As a father of four, Jackson is inspired by his family and hopes that through his failures and successes he can teach his kids something.
"I want to show them that you can have big dreams and that you can live those dreams and come back successful - maybe not every time, but if you fail it just means you work harder and you try again," he said.
The Command Sgt. Maj. Jack L. Clark Jr. Best Medic Competition will take place Sept. 15-20 at Camp Bullis, Texas.