FORT GORDON, Ga. – U.S. Army Cyber Command (ARCYBER) recently named the winners of its 2020 Best Warrior Competition (BWC) during a virtual ceremony.
Sgt. James Huster of the 704th Military Intelligence Brigade at Fort Meade, Md., was named Best Warrior Noncommissioned Officer (NCO) of the Year, and Spc. Genesis Miranda of the 55th Signal Company (Combat Camera) at Fort Meade earned the title of Best Warrior Soldier of the Year.
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 competition was conducted as a virtual event, with competitors completing tasks and events at their respective duty stations.
The ARCYBER winners are currently competing against Soldiers from 11 commands worldwide in the Department of the Army-level BWC, scheduled to conclude Oct. 9, 2020.
The BWC tests Soldiers’ knowledge, skills and abilities in a variety of challenges that compel them to demonstrate leadership and critical thinking, including urban warfare simulations, formal board interviews, physical fitness challenges, written exams, and warrior tasks and battle drills relevant to today’s operating environment. The competition is specifically designed to identify Soldiers who can best thrive in adversity, display physical and mental toughness, demonstrate expertise across the spectrum of military tasks, and apply their knowledge in fast-paced, combat-like scenarios.
Competitors were evaluated by a virtual board on a written exam, as well as their scores on a range of events completed at their home station units. Those events included an Army Combat Fitness Test, a 12-mile rucksack march, weapons qualification, land navigation, medical skills evaluations, obstacle courses, and wartime scenarios
“We had some phenomenal individuals compete that had a chance to showcase their talent, and they deserved the opportunity to be recognized,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Darien Lawshea, Signal Corps Regimental Command Sergeant Major, U.S. Army Signal School. “It’s a process that Soldiers and noncommissioned officers can walk away from feeling better off, based on the knowledge they exhibited.”
“The BWC is an annual event used to select the United States Army Best Warrior, which aligns with the Chief of Staff of the Army’s philosophy that our people are our greatest strength and our most important weapon system,” said Sgt. Maj. Jose G. Melendez of the U.S. Army Strategic Operations Directorate, who participated on the selection board.
The ARCYBER winners said the BWC benefits Soldiers by allowing them to separate themselves from their peers and demonstrate their capabilities and potential to senior enlisted NCOs.
“It pushes him or her to strive for the total Soldier concept,” said Miranda. “The BWC benefits the Army because it showcases the best of what the Army has to offer, therefore creating morale and pride.”
“These competitions are a great progress check for myself, and provide abundant learning opportunities,” said Huster. “It’s part of ‘striving to be the best Soldier and leader I can be.’
“It benefits the Soldiers with experiences that they are able to learn from. These experiences can also be used to conduct training on how Soldiers get assessed at these higher levels of Army command. Spreading this knowledge helps develop a more lethal and efficient force.”
“Both of these outstanding competitors displayed passion for the profession of arms during their virtual board performances,” said Melendez. “They remained calm and communicated effectively in a stressful situation. These are great qualities that the best Soldiers and NCOs must have.”
Lawshea said what made this year’s winners stand out was their level of professionalism while interacting with Army senior leaders, awareness of current events, and their interpretation of how these events affect them and their subordinates, and peers.
“Drafting the operations order, or OPORD, was the most challenging event, due to my limited experience writing OPORDS,” said Huster.
“The most challenging event in the Best Warrior Competition was the 12-mile ruck,” said Miranda. “Not because it was my first time completing it, but my failure in preparing for it. The worst mistake was wearing new boots. At least I can say they are most definitely broken in now.”
Miranda said she wanted to take on the BWC to assess her own capabilities.
“What inspired me to compete for the Best Warrior Competition was to discover my weaknesses and strengthen those downfalls, to not only become a better leader, but a better person,” said Miranda. “I also wanted to challenge myself physically and mentally to determine how far I can go until I reach a breaking point.”
While this year’s BWC was conducted virtually due to health considerations, it really wasn’t that different from a normal competition, and Soldiers still had to prepare just as thoroughly, said Melendez.
“The competitors reported to the president of the board as they normally would, and were assessed in their knowledge of Soldier programs, doctrine, and regulations,” Melendez said.
“My preparation didn't change,” said Huster. “I made sure to study all of the events to help ensure a successful outcome.”
The virtual competition did present a few challenges, however – for the competitors and their evaluators.
“I prepared differently for a virtually competition by finding contacts and resources for people to proctor every task that was needed to be completed, said Miranda. “I had to continue physical and mental training, all while maintaining social distancing and all of the COVID-19 safety procedures to minimize exposure.”
“The board members had to be more deliberate in asking their questions, to ensure they didn’t speak out of turn and confuse the competitors,” Melendez said.
“From the placement of the camera we could see all the facing movements (made by the competitors at their home stations for the BWC board of senior NCOs evaluating them virtually),” said Lawshea. “We as board members had to come up with a briefing order so we didn’t step on each other asking questions.”
Making the BWC happen in a pandemic environment was just another proof of the resiliency and capability of today’s Soldiers, Melendez said.
”This year's competition demonstrated that regardless of conditions and challenges our Army faces across the globe, that no mission is too difficult for our Soldiers,” he said.
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