JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. - Fifteen Soldiers arrived in Washington on a rare sunny afternoon, prepared to compete for the title of 'Best' as the enlisted or non-commissioned officer going forward to represent Army Reserve Medical Command at the U.S. Army Reserve Command level competition to be held at Fort Bragg, North Carolina June 23-28, 2019.
ARMEDCOM's Best Warrior Competition was held April 13-17 at locations throughout Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington. Though warm weather welcomed the competitors on their first day, it didn't stay long and the Warriors found themselves having to perform in rain, fog, hail and temperatures as low as 35 degrees as they tackled an obstacle course, day and night land navigation, a 6-mile road march, several weapon familiarization events, a physical fitness test and written evaluations, many being conducted by Soldiers who had little sleep and were challenged in every possible environment.
Despite the tough conditions, competitors said it was a great experience.
Staff Sgt. John Goza, a dental specialist assigned to 7246th Medical Support Unit said the training will be beneficial for his unit when he returns home. "This is a lot of good training that I can take back to my unit. Readiness is really important for Soldiers. You can be called up at any time," he said.
"It was pretty challenging, but I enjoyed it. I really got to see both my weaknesses and strengths. Participating in this competition helped me realize you can accomplish things you never thought you could," said Sgt. Richard Sagoe, a pharmacy specialist assigned to the 7450th Medical Bn.
The Best Warrior Competition recognizes Soldiers who demonstrate commitment to the Army values, embody the Warrior Ethos, and represent the Force of the Future. Staff Sgt. Jade Fitzgerald, a human resource specialist assigned to the 7456th Medical Battalion, shared what that meant for her as a competitor.
"I was asked the question about which Army Value was most important to me, and I said it was selfless service. I truly believe that in my bones. I would do anything to see one of my battle buddies succeed, even if it meant I wouldn't," she said.
For those considering participating in the Best Warrior Competition, this year's competitors had lots of advice.
"Don't talk yourself out of it. If I could talk to my younger self 19 years ago when I joined, I'd say 'Do everything that sounds crazy that scares you. Every two-scoops-of-Hooah crazy thing that you can do - just do it!' Gain those experiences," said Sgt. 1st Class Teddy 'Lee' Fain, a combat medic assigned to Medical Readiness and Training Command.
"I would encourage other Soldiers to participate in the Best Warrior Competition because it's a great opportunity to do Soldier tasks you don't get to do every time you go to battle assembly. Whenever you get the chance to come out here and do Soldier things, not only is it great training but you get to show what you're made of and why the Army Reserve is such a great organization," agreed Sgt. Kevin Harrington, a veterinary food inspection specialist assigned to the 7359th Veterinary Detachment.
As the group reflected on their accomplishments throughout the last few days, Chief Warrant Officer 5 Patrick Nelligan, ARMEDCOM's command chief warrant officer and guest speaker for ARMEDCOM's award banquet, congratulated them for their accomplishments while reminding them that there's still work to be done.
"So this is the Best Warrior Competition and I'm going to commend all of you in advance - job well done! But you're just starting," Nelligan said.
He went on to explain the challenge facing the Army Reserve and why the best are needed to help move the organization forward.
"We're 15,000 Non-Commissioned leaders short, and you just came out of a competition that determined you were the best of the best.
"What are you going to do with this experience when you go home? How will you re-energize yourselves and your formations - our formations? Because if you don't start translating this knowledge and these experiences to those E4s, we will never make an impact on that 15,000 shortage," explained Nelligan.
As he closed, he congratulated the competitors one last time and left them with some homework. "Now demonstrate that you are the best by going back and take everything you were proven to excel at and transform that into something that will give our formations the edge when we are called to do our jobs for our country.
"You would be doing your leadership a disservice if you don't share what you've experienced here. My challenge to you is to do something with this experience. Get the organization more NCOs and maybe... consider going warrant," he said with a grin.
Spc. Sebastian Groothuis, a combat medic and the 2019 ARMEDCOM Best Warrior winner for the Soldier category, shared some homework of his own as he prepares for the U.S. Army Reserve Command competition to be held in June.
"The goal of this competition was readiness. In order for each of us to be ready, we need to set the bar high. When I look back at this competition, I don't want to look at areas where I succeeded. I want to look at the areas where I need to continue to push myself to improve on to be a ready Soldier, and hopefully to be an NCO one day," Groothuis said.
While this is a competition for ultimate bragging rights of who is the best warrior in Army Reserve Medical Command, the real goal is to help Soldiers and NCO's realize how to take a training event, like Best Warrior, and use it to ensure they are ready as individuals and collectively as units, a point that Command Sgt. Maj. Wayne Brewster, the ARMEDCOM command sergeant major, drove home for the competitors on their final day together.
"When I talked about readiness that first day, I meant those warrior skills you've been demonstrating all week. Being ready to go anywhere you're needed to and doing what you've been called to do.
"As of today, you can go anywhere the Commanding General asks. You're ready. Our mission here was 'Sharpen the Edge'. That mission is now complete," said Brewster.
Army Reserve Medical Command congratulates the top U.S. Army Reserve Soldier, Spc. Sebastian Groothuis, assigned to 7404th Troop Medical Clinic out of Cedar Rapids, Iowa; and Non-Commissioned Officer, Sgt. Robert Strunk, assigned to 7388th Blood Detachment out of Fort Jackson, South Carolina; who were selected to go on to the next level to represent ARMEDCOM at the Army Reserve Best Warrior Competition in June of this year. Runners-up for both categories were U.S. Army Reserve Soldier, Spc. Broghan Enright, assigned to 7207th Medical Support Unit, and Non-Commissioned Officer, Staff Sgt. John Goza, assigned to 7246th Medical Support Unit.