FORT CARSON, Colo. - In any human endeavor, those who go above and beyond tend to inch out in front of the pack - to set themselves apart from the fray - to rise to the top. The U.S. Army offers many opportunities to compete to be the best in various career fields - whether it be the Expert Infantryman Badge, the Expert Field Medical Badge or even the Sullivan or Gainey cups.
But immaterial of career field, the 4th Infantry Division gave Fort Carson Soldiers the opportunity to compete to be the best.
Before the sun was even able to make an appearance, 16 hand-selected Soldiers from multiple units and backgrounds, but with the commonality of being stationed on Fort Carson, prepared to start the Army Physical Fitness Test. This is just one of the many events included in the 2019 Fort Carson Best Warrior Competition.
While battling physical exhaustion, mental fatigue, and sleep deprivation, the competitors attempted to prove their mettle with events including a written test, day and night land navigation, and an obstacle course.
Competitors were tasked with completing a 12-mile ruck march weighted with 35 pounds in under three hours immediately followed by a combative tournament.
"A lot of these guys are pushing through adversity, making things happen," said Master Sgt. Clayton Alexander Crooks, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the competition.
Any onlooker watching this weeklong crucible would see there's no doubt it is physically demanding, but brawn alone won't cut it - brains are required.
"You have to be a well-rounded Soldier; it's a little bit of everything," said 1st Sgt. Edith Canada of U.S Army Garrison Fort Carson and sponsor for one of the participants. "Not just physical but also mental agility is required to compete at this level."
Pfc. Eian Kennedy of Alpha Troop, 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team was the lowest ranking Soldier in the competition but refused to let that stop him from trying his best to win. "I'm competing to set myself apart from my peers," he said.
"Not everyone is willing to raise their hand and say I want to compete," said Sgt. Brian Mitchell of Delta Company, 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team. "If it were easy, then no one would be proud of it."
The competition attracted Soldiers with an innate competitive spirit and a never-quit attitude all of whom demonstrated great aspiration and determination to win. At times, nothing but sheer will kept them on their feet, when their muscles were screaming at them to stop.
Not one of the 16 gave in.
But in the end there could only be two winners: one winner from the junior enlisted side and one from the noncommissioned officer side.
The junior-enlisted winner, and native of Goochland, Virginia, was Spc. Keith Zimmerman, of Bravo Troop, 2nd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division.
"This competition has definitely taught me a lot about myself," said Zimmerman. "It took me to higher limits and expectations that I thought I would never see."
The winning noncommissioned officer, and native of Phoenix, Arizona, was Staff Sgt. Jake Fredette of Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 2-77 Field Artillery, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division.
"Feels good, just glad that I could represent my unit and family," said Fredette. "Happy that my best was enough to get first place."
Both winners are set to participate in the Corps-level competition held at Fort Hood, Texas.
"It was tough at the top positions, just a few points separating everybody, but winners really stood apart from their peers," said Command Sgt. Major T.J. Holland of 4th Infantry Division. "I think these Soldiers are going to really do well at the III Corps competition and absolutely win."