MANNHEIM, Germany - The top Soldiers and noncommissioned officers from the 18th Military Police Brigade competed in a grueling two days of competition May 11-12 in Mannheim, Germany, for the chance to be named the brigade's Soldier or NCO of the Year.
The 13 Soldiers journeyed to Mannheim from various posts throughout Germany. There were Soldier and NCO representatives from each of the brigade's four battalions - 28th Transportation Battalion, 95th Military Police Battalion, 709th Military Police Battalion and the 793rd Military Police Battalion - competing for the title.
The Soldiers were selected to compete based on their previous successes at company- and battalion-level Soldier of the month, quarter and year boards. The Soldiers and NCOs competing in the brigade's Soldier and NCO of the Year competition were tried and tested to be the best each battalion had to offer.
"I've been training since after I found out I won the (709th) battalion Soldier of the Year," said Spc. Daniel Micek, a military police Soldier from the 709th MP Bn., "So, I've been training with the Warfighter team that we have here. We were doing PT three times a day, a lot of field training ... it's been ruck marches, and it's been basic skills like reacting to fire and movement under fire."
The brigade competition was structured to push the Soldiers' limits, both physically and mentally, with the intent of ultimately allowing one Soldier and one NCO to rise above the rest.
The two-day competition consisted of numerous events that kept the Soldiers on their toes with just enough time to catch their breath between events. Points were scaled based on where Soldiers placed in each individual event, culminating with a board presided over by Command Sgt. Maj. Brenda Curfman, the command sergeant major of the 18th MP Bde.
The first day of the competition began with even the weather working against the competitors. Gloomy grey skies and a steady dose of rain was the backdrop for what would be a day of intense physical competition.
The Soldiers started their morning with a 6 a.m. Army Physical Fitness Test; a 2-mile run and two minutes each of push-ups and sit-ups. It was just a small taste of how hard they would have to physically push themselves for the next two days.
After a quick breakfast, the Soldiers embarked on a difficult land navigation course through the woods where they plotted points on their maps using their protractors and a piece of string, hoping to find all six of their markers in the three-hour period allotted, while eventually traversing through just under three miles of woods.
After finding the final point, the competitors were whisked off to the qualification range where they tried to best one another on the M-4 rifle and the M-9 pistol.
More weapons followed at the next event where Soldiers were given a case with three disassembled weapons inside, which they had to re-assemble in the quickest time possible.
The competition then continued into the night with the Soldiers returning to the woods for a night land navigation course, the dark severely limiting their ability to use terrain features to orient themselves.
Morning came quickly, and day two offered little relief for the Soldiers as they began their morning with a 16-kilometer ruck march carrying a 30-pound ruck through more rain.
After a chance to change their socks and get into a dry uniform, the Soldiers made their way over to the Situational Training Exercise lanes where they simulated entering and exiting a Forward Operating Base, reacting to fire, searching a vehicle, evaluating a casualty and calling in a 9-line medical evacuation report, among other tasks.
As they completed the lanes, the Soldiers were taken to their last physical event, the obstacle course, where they would have to give every last bit of physical effort they had. The low crawling and high crawling, jumping over walls, heaving sandbags over their shoulders and dragging a 180-pound dummy - in addition to all of the other obstacles on the course - tested each Soldier in combat-related drills.
The end of the physical portion of the competition though, marked the beginning of the mental portion. Every Soldier now had to sit at a board presided over by Curfman. It would be the deciding factor in choosing the winner.
In the end, despite who came out the winner, the Soldiers enjoyed the competition and the chance to test themselves against their peers.
"The sportsmanship was great - everyone helping each other out. It was definitely competitive but friendly at the same time," said Spc. John Visaggio, an explosive ordnance disposal technician with the 720th EOD Company, 28th Trans. Bn.
Each of the Soldiers had their reasons for wanting to come out on top. For Cpl. Chadwick Forbes, a military police Soldier with the 95th MP Bn., it was tradition.
"I come from a long line of NCOs," he said, "and just to say to my dad and my uncles and my grandfather that I was the best this year, it would mean a lot to them."
For Forbes, that is precisely what he will be able to tell them. Forbes was named the brigade's NCO of the Year while the Soldier of the Year honor went to Micek.
Next for the winners will be the 21st Theater Sustainment Command's Soldier and NCO of the Year competition in June.