By Maj. Thomas CieslakApril 26, 2019
FORT BRAGG, N.C. -- For the third year in a row, the best mortar team in the U.S. Army is from the 82nd Airborne Division.
The annual competition held at Fort Benning, Georgia, is a grueling multi-day test of participants' ability to work as a synchronized team despite physical adversity and mental exhaustion. The first time it was held in 2017 served as a validation for it to become an official Army-level competition.
Each of the event competitors is an 11C indirect fire Infantry Soldier, and is part of a mortar squad, section or platoon. All are highly proficient with the Army's 60mm, 81mm and 120mm mortars.
A mortar team composed of paratroopers from the 1st Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, won the U.S Army Best Mortar Competition, April 11, 2019.
"Winning three in a row demonstrates a culture of sustained excellence," said Lt. Col. Jason Wayne, commander of 1-505th PIR. "Winning the Best Mortar Competition is simply a visible recognition of the hours of hard work the entire mortar platoon puts into mastering their warfighting tasks each day."
Events during the competition test participants' tactical skills, mental grit technical knowledge as Indirect Fire Infantryman.
"Day two of the competition was the most physically demanding. After completing the Downy mile and leaders walk, our team was at our lowest point" said Sgt. Alec Norton who has competed and won in all three of the Best Mortar Competitions. "We dug deep and used our strengths and weakness to our advantage through the event immediately following it, the obstacle course."
At Fort Bragg, the team trained intensively for months to prepare for the competition, focusing on performing fundamental tactical and technical tasks like first aid exceptionally. Speed and adjusting to adversity were two factors underlying each training session.
"As a team for two straight weeks leading up to the competition, I helped teach Fire Direction Controls and hands-on mortar training to cater to the Task, Conditions and Standards, of the competition," said Norton.
Spc. Christian Elliott and Pfc. Loren Dow, the two junior members of the team, took plotting boards home to continue training in their down time in-between twice-a-day physical training sessions focused on performing exercises evaluated by the new Army Combat Fitness Test.
Not resting on their laurels, the team strives to teach other 1-505 PIR Indirect Fire Infantrymen their best practices and techniques to improve their proficiency and lethality.
"This team is prepared to jump, fight and win on any battlefield. They will continue to hone their skills as they prepare to deploy in support of Operation Freedom's Sentinel later this summer," said Wayne. "Rest Assured, they will return to Fort Benning next year to defend the title."