By Lisa SimunaciMay 7, 2019
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- The Aviation and Missile Command's top Soldier and non-commissioned officer were identified after four days of rigorous assessments that included ruck marching and weapons familiarization among other tasks and battle drills.
Staff Sgt. Tiffany Anderson and Spc. Samuel Mitchell, both from Letterkenny Army Depot, emerged as the winners in AMCOM's Best Warrior Competition held April 29 to May 2. Staff Sgt. Shane Gratton from the Aviation Center Logistics Command based at Fort Rucker, Alabama, earned the alternate winner title. Anderson is a member of the Pennsylvania National Guard. Mitchell is an Army Reserve Soldier assigned to the 220th CID.
Staff Sgt. Troy Smith from ACLC and Sgt. Michael Benitez from Corpus Christi Army Depot in Texas also took part in the competition.
AMCOM Command Sgt. Maj. Mike Dove said he was inspired to hold the competition because the command didn't have any representation last year at the Army Materiel Command competition.
"I wanted to make sure we had competitors to send forward this year," Dove said. "Besides the competition, it gives participants the opportunity to practice their basic warrior tasks."
The competition included 11 tasks, an evaluation board and a written essay on leadership.
Anderson, who will go on to compete at the next level, said the competition gave her a chance to focus on the skills she doesn't normally get the chance to practice at her home station. The small Army depot where she serves as a military police officer doesn't have the training areas and resources found on larger installations.
"This was good training," Anderson said, smiling after a three-hour land navigation course through Fort Rucker's humid weather and woods.
Mitchell, who also will go on to the next level, said he was satisfied with the competition. "It was a good experience," he said. "It was well put together."
The winners are Army Reserve Soldiers serving with the 220th CID Detachment attached to Letterkenny Army Depot in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. Both are serving on Personnel Force Innovation/Active Duty Operational Support assignments.
Gratton, a Florida National Guard Soldier currently assigned to Fort Rucker, said he attended the competition after another competitor couldn't make it.
"It was last minute for me," he said. "So I just decided to go with it." As an alternate winner, Gratton may again have to compete on short notice if the winner cannot make the next competition.
Competitor Smith is a quality assurance evaluator at Fort Rucker's Cairns Army Airfield. He said he enjoyed the competition and found the weapons drills with the M9 pistol and M249 light machine gun the most challenging. "Those are weapons we don't normally have a chance to operate."
Competitor Benitez called the competition a good refresher. "It has been awhile since I've trained on certain tasks," said the Army Reserve Soldier, who is currently activated and performing garrison military police operations at Corpus Christi Army Depot.
Corpus Christi Army Depot Sgt. Maj. Patricia Wahl said she was impressed with the five competitors. "Most of them are not full-time Soldiers. They came from Pennsylvania, Texas and Fort Rucker and met here as strangers," she said. "It didn't take long before they built a camaraderie and were working together, despite the competition."
Fort Rucker units showed a similar camaraderie by pulling together to support the AMCOM competition, said its organizer, Master Sgt. Lorenzo Dukes, the ACLC Operations noncommissioned officer in charge.
"We tried to make our competition as challenging as possible," Dukes said. "Fort Rucker provided support for the ranges, weapons training and provided medical support and other resources."
In anticipation of the Army Materiel Command's Best Warrior Competition in July at Camp Atterbury, Indiana, the winners and alternate will continue to practice and train before facing their next competitors.
"I'm proud of all our Soldiers who competed," Dove said. "AMCOM will be well represented at the Army Materiel Command level."