FORT McCOY, Wisc. — A young Soldier from Sacramento, California, with ambitions of becoming a drill sergeant won the title of Soldier of the Year in the 2020 U.S. Army Reserve Best Warrior Competition, with winners announced at a ceremony Sept. 10.
“It’s very humbling,” said Spc. Stanley Thompson, a U.S. Army Reserve indirect fire infantryman with the 95th Training Division (Initial Entry Training), 108th Training Command (Initial Entry Training), who won the title of Best Warrior after a week of physically demanding challenges and events.
“I did not think that I was going to win it today. I did my best, but so did all of the other Reserve Soldiers out here. I’m glad I can take the win back to my unit and prepare for the next competition,” he said.
The 2020 U.S Army Reserve Best Warrior Competition, held Sept. 4-10, showcased the individual excellence and readiness of Reserve Soldiers as they competed in a variety of lane scenarios throughout Fort McCoy. Each year, the U.S. Army Reserve selects two winners – the top noncommissioned officer and the top junior enlisted Soldier. These winners then move on to compete at the next level against the top competitors across the entire U.S. Army and Army National Guard.
More than 40 Soldiers participated this year at this level, pushing their physical limits and their warrior task knowledge to be successful during each event. Despite heated competition, in the end there could only be one junior enlisted winner, earning the title of “Best Warrior.”
Participants in BWC engaged a multitude of Army skills and rigorous contests, ranging from traditional Army events like marksmanship and land navigation to mentally challenging stations like a written essay and the performance board. This demanding schedule tested the endurance and fortitude of the competitors for almost a week.
During that time, competitors received very little rest and even spent some nights sleeping in tents. For Thompson, the wear and tear on his body during the 12-mile ruck march was the most grueling.
“We woke up at 1:30 a.m. that morning, so the lack of sleep definitely was a huge factor,” Thompson said. “I also wasn’t feeling that well, and I hadn’t eaten in a while. I started the ruck march in bad shape, but I pushed through. I don’t know if I made the time or not, but as soon as I got to the finish line I passed out. I just dropped straight to the ground.”
Thompson believes that the lack of sleep and nutrition played a role in collapsing.
“It was a lack of blood sugar from not eating,” Thompson said. “That was definitely the hardest part of the competition. I’d say I got less than 10 hours of sleep since I got here last Friday.”
Thompson’s commitment to winning shined brightly as he fought through the competition. Each event presented new and different challenges. For Thompson, the competition is seen as an opportunity to move forward and advance in his military career.
“I was active duty,” he said. “I knew coming into the Army Reserve that to get into specialty schools you have to prove to the unit and to the Army that you are worth sending.”
Thompson credits his company commander at Delta Co., 3-378th Infantry Regiment with getting him to the competition. Thompson currently lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and he commutes two hours to Norman, Oklahoma, each month to attend training with his unit.
“We were at a battle assembly one day, and my company commander says, ‘You’re going to go, right?’ And that’s pretty much how it started.”
From that serendipitous beginning, Thompson worked his way to receiving top honors at the awards luncheon Sept. 10. For Thompson, the victory still feels unreal. After the master of ceremonies called his name as the junior enlisted winner, he was unsure if he heard it correctly.
“I hesitated to get up at first,” said Thompson. “I was like, ‘Did they call the right name out?’ I didn’t think I’d get this title today.”
Thompson provided candid advice for U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers interested in participating in the competition someday.
“Do it. As Reserve Soldiers, we don’t often get opportunities like this, so if you’re needing a hand or a boost to tell you, take it from me: go do it.”