FORT BENNING, GA – They rucked 12 miles, climbed ropes and navigated unfamiliar territory in the dead of night. They scored points on accuracy shooting enemies and speed and skill in treating casualties.
Seven of Fort Benning Martin Army Community Hospital’s (BMACH) finest competed: Pfc. Jonathan Simon, Spc. Noah Hayes, Spc. Ricardo Tevalan, Spc. Kimberly White, Sgt. Pete Nguyen, Sgt. Bradley Reed and Sgt. Darius Wakefield. Over the course of a grueling week, their mental acuity and physical stamina were tested by a rigorous series of tactical and technical challenges. Only three, Wakefield, Nguyen and White, bested the relentless march of time, their fiercely driven peers, the cold weather and simulated enemy forces to become BMACH’s Best Warrior Noncommissioned Officer of the Year (NCOY) and Soldier of the Year (SOY).
This year featured a “mystery event.” The brand new CrossFit inspired challenge had Soldiers performing strenuous repeat sets of Jump over Burpees, Deadlifts and Tank Pushcarts loaded with 160 pounds. Wakefield admitted, “I’ve never done that before. That one was pretty challenging. It was fun though.”
“My motivation is my Soldiers,” the treatment NCO at the Consolidated Troop Medical Clinic (CTMC) went on to say. “I always encourage them to do things like this. I’m not going to tell you to do it when I’m not about to do it. I like to lead from the front.”
Wakefield shared he had the most difficulty with the night land navigation, and had the most fun tackling the obstacle course because he wants to go to air assault someday. He has no special plans to celebrate his Best Warrior recognition other than to go home and play with his 7-year-old son.
“I’ve never climbed the rope at the air assault course and I didn’t think I could do it,” confessed White. “On my first try I just went at it. And from then on is when I knew I wanted to actually compete.”
The food inspector in charge of the commissary section stands at just 5 feet, 2 inches tall. The distinct disadvantage her slight stature posed rucking with about 40 pounds total didn’t stop her. In fact it pushed White harder. “I knew I wanted to get ahead of a lot of the competitors. As a female, it’s very hard to compete against a male. It shouldn’t be a thing… the female is empowered. I wanted to show out as a female.”
That mental toughness was what motivated White to shine on the physical endurance challenges. “You really have to push yourself to your limits and show everyone else who you really are. I definitely think I showed everyone who I really was.”
The Best Warrior Competition is designed to identify the best overall Soldier in the Army… not just the most physically fit Soldier, or the one who does the best in front of a board. The reactive range measures overall combat readiness by testing the ability to adapt and overcome battle-focused scenarios. Nguyen said, “They wanted us to move around and move through different obstacles with a loaded weapon. We’re just not used to that working in a hospital. For me, that was the toughest challenge.”
The radiology tech promoted to sergeant just a couple of months ago. He is already demonstrating the leadership qualities of an NCO. “Although it’s a competition, you want to motivate the Soldiers with you.” Nguyen said, “Even when me and Spc. Tevalan were out there, if one of us were finishing first or he was finishing first, we were still rooting each other on and wanting each other to do well. You have to remember you are with your brothers and sisters.”