By Sgt. Amanda H. Hunt, 31st ADA Brigade Public AffairsDecember 12, 2019
FORT SILL, Oklahoma (Dec. 12, 2019) -- Cerberus Battery, 5th Battalion, 5th Air Defense Artillery, held its first Stinger Missile Team/Sentinel Crew Competition Nov. 20.
In teams of two, Soldiers ruck marched seven miles with their advanced combat helmet (ACH), improved outer tactical vest (IOTV), a 35-pound rucksack, and a stinger missile. Stations were spread along the route that tested Soldiers on job-specific skills and basic soldiering skills.
Stinger missile teams demonstrated competency with their missile. Sentinel, an air defense radar system, detects aircraft. Sentinel crews were tested on their speed and proficiency at transporting and emplacing the radar system and procedures necessary to begin radiating the radar.
Sgt. 1st Class Arianna Cook, non-commissioned officer in charge of the competition, said she and the other cadre spent about two weeks collectively planning the event. The competition was born out of tradition and sought to reinforce Soldiers operating in an austere environment alone and unafraid.
Pfc. Jamen C. Menard, a missile and air defense crewmember, was one of the winners of the competition. He prepared by rucking and practicing his skills. During sergeants' time training, he became comfortable with a variety of tasks that he expected to see during the competition, such as the 13 critical checks on a stinger missile, land navigation, and combat lifesaver support.
Another winner, Spc. Catherine M. Strickland, an air defense battle management systems operator, thought that the team building aspect of the competition was the best part. She enjoyed working through obstacles together and playing off her and her teammate's strengths and weaknesses.
"It was nice to compete with my comrades and make it a fun competition/training exercise," Strickland said.
Rucking was the most challenging aspect for both competitors.
Despite the challenge, Menard said rucking with a stinger missile was his favorite part of the competition. As he carried the missile on his shoulder and his rucksack on his back, he would look to the team ahead and try to catch up with them.
"It was a good experience," he said, "because I did it the whole six miles with my team chief and I realized just how heavy the stinger missile gets."
Although it was his favorite part, he still says that looking back he would have practiced rucking more and is looking forward to the next competition.
Strickland said she hopes there will be another competition in the future.
"I think it's a good training environment," she said. "You're creating a fun environment to try to push yourself past your normal limits that you would do on a daily basis."
Going through the tasks and completing the ruck march boosted Strickland's confidence. She learned that she is more capable physically and intellectually than she thought.
"I learned that I had more knowledge off hand than what I thought I did without having to sit there and think about it," Strickland said. "And then, the rucking part, I learned that I can go farther than what I thought."
As for being a member of the Cerberus Battery, she loves it. "There's a really big family atmosphere here. Everyone's really supportive of everybody. Everyone wants to see everyone succeed. I love it here."
Cook said Cerberus Battery is using this competition to create a culture change. "It's not only just to test their skills and abilities but it's also to lift morale."
Soldiers will compete in the future to be Top Gun, which normally encompasses the highest scores on table tests and gunnery training. Cerberus Battery, however, will include the Stinger Missile Competition results.
Cook said that they could have done any kind of ruck, but the leaders of the battery wanted to create a special event that factors into Top Gun and includes training of value and motivates Soldiers.
"Cerberus Battery really lived up to its reputation," Cook stated. "I think we're going to continue to build on that from here on out."