STUTTGART, Germany - After a tough three days pitting the finest Soldiers of Installation Management Command--Europe against one another, the 2020 Best Warrior Competition named Spc. Juan Monroy and Staff Sgt. Benjamin Wright Soldier and Noncommissioned Officer of the Year, respectively, March 4.
The toughest challenge for Monroy, representing USAG Bavaria, was the ruck march.
"I tried to give it my all," Monroy said. "It was a tough one."
For Wright, from U.S. Army Garrison-Stuttgart, avoiding the temptation to overdo it when the other NCOs were pushing themselves too hard was the biggest hurdle to overcome. He kept himself steady and consistent to become NCOY.
"The other competitors were pushing each other. We've been pushing each other since day one, so just trying to beat that tempo that everyone was putting out was a challenge in itself," Wright said.
Both warriors serve as 31B Military Police. For recognition of their accomplishment, both were awarded the Army Commendation Medal. The two will now go on to compete in the U.S. Army-Europe level BWC.
USAG Stuttgart hosted the 2020 IMCOM-E competition. A baker's dozen Soldiers took part in BWC 2020 within the garrison footprint, taking on most of their challenges in the forests of the Panzer Training Area. Wright and Monroy overcame obstacles that challenged their warrior skills and knowledge, beginning with a chilly, early morning Army Combat Fitness Test on Sunday, March 1. Additionally, live-fire ranges gauged their marksmanship, stress shooting and battle drills.
"Man, both my legs are cramping up!" said Staff Sgt. Thomas Palos, USAG Bavaria, who forged ahead of the pack on the 10k run, driving hard to get the best time on the second day. He and other NCOs crossed the finish line ahead of the junior enlisted. Clad in a helmet, a full pack, battle rattle and weapon, he broke the tape at the finish and immediately began working off the leg cramps that were the cost of the win. As he grounded his gear and the other warriors began crossing the line, a medic fixed him an electrolyte-enhanced canteen of water. Clouds of steam rose from his body as he rehydrated.
"I competed in Best Warrior in Korea in 2011," Palos said. "I love this. I sit behind a desk and I'd rather do this any day."
At 4'11", 36M Religious Affairs Specialist Spc. Diamond Wrushen, USAG Rheinland-Pfalz, had to stretch herself to the limit where the other Soldiers had an easier reach.
"The biggest challenge for me was the heights during the obstacle course," Wrushen said, adding she doesn't like heights to begin with. "I had to overcome it. I didn't think I'd be able to make it across the ledges, but I got through it. It took some time; that was the most challenging for me."
The key to winning BWC is focus, focus, focus on key tasks, advised Master Sgt. Roosevelt Moore, IMCOM-Europe, from Sembach Kaserne in Rhineland-Pfalz.
"This is extremely important for young Soldiers, especially Soldiers who are in the garrison day-to-day, to get out here and do some Soldier stuff, to interact with people, and actually push themselves to the limits," Moore said. "Stay in focus; mental sustainment--they need to sustain themselves going forward and not let themselves be overcome from being tired."
Moore's battle buddy throughout the competition was 1st Sgt. Lisa Zoechbauer, Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, USAG Stuttgart. Together with fellow senior NCOs from Stuttgart and across Europe, they were everywhere, from dusk 'til dawn, to make the IMCOM-E BWC happen.
"I think that the biggest obstacle they have to face is the fear of the unknown," Zoechbauer said. "They don't know what to expect. And on top of that, they must overcome some of the things that they've placed on themselves."
In addition to physical prowess, the warriors had to flex mental muscles by composing a written essay and undergoing an imposing board of command sergeants major who tested their Army knowledge.
"I was a little nervous. I've been practicing for the board for the past few months, and when I went in, I went in with confidence," Monroy said. "I feel like I did pretty well."
The essays were also tough, Monroy said, but he felt he did a good job.
Wright found the board "very nerve wracking. Every time you get in front of your leadership like that, it's nerve wracking."
The BWC concluded with the naming Wright and Monroy as the winners in an award ceremony in the Patch Barracks Theater.
"You were all the right choices from your garrisons. You all represented your hometown in Europe very well," said Command Sgt. Maj. Samara Pitre, IMCOM-E senior enlisted advisor. "You've all shown character, courage, commitment, professionalism and agility, and you can all honestly claim to be the best in your ranks. All of you have displayed Strong Europe. The announcement of the winners today should not take that away from you."
The winners now move onto the IMCOM-level competition next, with the winning warrior from that level moving onto the Department of the Army's Best Warrior Competition later this year.
"I think it's a great opportunity for the Soldiers who typically are required to patrol the garrison or provide religious support services, or maybe supplies for their company, to get out here and actually fire their weapons, do obstacle courses and get outside of the normal day-to-day things," Zoechbauer said. "Being here in Stuttgart we get to show them that, hey, we have the capabilities of some of the other installations in Europe as well."
The SOY and NCOY had some advice for the 2021 BWC Soldiers.
"Listen to your NCOs, and always, always train," Monroy said. "Be ready, no matter what. There's going to be times where you feel like you're going to want to quit, but it's always good to push through and give it your all."
Training properly is Wright's advice.
"Know you're going to end up doing weapons and physical events, so train for it," he said.
Command Sgt. Maj. Philson Tavernier, USAG Ansbach, offered his own advice to current and future BWC competitors.
"Absolutely never quit--just keep pushing through. Give it all you have," he said.
What makes a BWC?
Soldiers taking part in the Best Warrior Competition had to pass the following challenges:
•Army Combat Fitness Test
•M4 carbine weapon qualification
•4-station warrior tasks and battle drills training exercise
•Day and night land navigation
•12-mile ruck march
The warriors of BWC 2020
In addition to Spc. Juan Monroy as the Soldier of the Year, Pfc. Richard Villareal, USAG Stuttgart was the runner-up, for which he received the Army Achievement Medal.. Other competitors were: Spc. Angel Torres, USAG Ansbach; Spc. Benjamin Ford, USAG Benelux; Spc. Bennie Long, USAG Italy; Spc. Diamond Wrushen, USAG Rheinland-Pfalz; and Pvt.2 Davontae Carter, USAG Wiesbaden.
In addition to Sgt. Benjamin Wright as NCO of the Year, Sgt. Clayton Schreiner, USAG Ansbach was the runner-up, for which he received the Army Achievement Medal. Other competitors were Staff Sgt. Thomas Palos, USAG Bavaria; Cpl. Jacob Bussey, USAG Benelux; Sgt. Alvin Ricks, USAG Italy; Staff Sgt. Terell Fulcher, USAG Rheinland-Pfalz; and Sgt. 1st Class Gary Durham, USAG Weisbaden.