BELTON, Mo.-Bodies were bruised, endurance and skills were tested, and minds were challenged as Soldiers from across the U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (Airborne) competed for the coveted title "Best Warrior."
The competition brought together the top Soldiers from USACAPOC(A) subordinate units from a 31-state region and Puerto Rico. During the four days of competition, the best of the best were pushed to their limits, both physically and mentally.
When the dust settled and the sweat dried, two Soldiers bested the competition in the noncommissioned officer and junior enlisted categories, respectively-Sgt. 1st Class Justin Kime and Spc. Jeffrey-Tyler Eisner.
Obstacle courses, Army physical fitness tests, weapons qualifications, Army ground combatives and timed ruck-marches tested the physical toughness of each contender. Day and night land navigation, warrior training tasks, and a team building event consisting of Soldiers working together to clear a makeshift urban city complete with aggressors and paintballs, tested the combined physical and intellectual abilities of each competitor. If that wasn't enough, every Soldier then sat for a written exam that dug deeper into their military skills and knowledge. Finally, all competitors, fully clad with Class A uniforms, reported to a board of senior noncommissioned officers and was drilled for several minutes further assessing their military proficiency and knowledge.
Sgt. 1st Class Kime, who is assigned to the 413th Civil Affairs Battalion in Lubback, Texas, won the non-commissioned officer category. Kime outperformed seven of his peers from across the country in the combatives tournament as well as the day and night land navigation courses. Kime was also among the top competitors in a 6-mile ruck march and a practical application test of basic non-commissioned officer tasks.
"What impressed me about Sgt. 1st Class Kime was his maturity level," said Command Sgt. Maj. Neil Heupel, USACAPOC(A)'s most senior NCO. "In today's Army, we promote so fast that we get people beyond their level of real expertise. But he's there-he's going to be a very good senior NCO."
Spc. Jeffrey-Tyler Eisner, of Rochester, N.Y., who is assigned to the 411th Civil Affairs Battalion in Danbury, Conn., was the overall top-scoring junior enlisted Soldier and was named the champion of the competition's Soldier category. Eisner dominated the marksmanship competition as well as the day and night land navigation courses.
"This wasn't a runaway on my part," Eisner said. "It's good to see how I stack up against some of the best Soldiers in [the command]." Eisner said he was proud to join the Army just over a year ago, and that his success in this tournament helps show how much he's learned from his training and noncommissioned officers.
"This competition was really leveled out between the physical part and the mental part - and rightfully so, because the best warrior needs to be a well-rounded Soldier," Kime said.
Over four days, the Soldiers faced 11 different events, one of which - a pistol marksmanship exercise - was not announced until the day it took place.
"It was good to have an event that you cannot prepare for," Kime said. "I was just happy that is was something that I was somewhat familiar with."
"That's the kind we don't always get back in the Reserve unit," Eisner said. "I thought it was good that we could get that experience."
The U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (Airborne) is an Army Reserve command with more than 11,000 Soldiers assigned to units in 31 states and Puerto Rico.
Civil Affairs units act as a liaison between the civilian population of a warzone or disaster area and the military presence, both informing the local commander of the status of the civilian populace as well as effecting assistance to locals by either coordinating military operations with non-governmental organizations or distributing direct aid and supplies.
Every Soldier competing here, and most assigned to USACAPOC(A), are Citizen-Soldiers. Each must balance two careers-one in which they wear a uniform and may be called upon to defend America; the second in which they are doctors, lawyers, engineers, policemen, firemen, bankers, computer programmers, farmers or construction workers.
"It's nice to see that they work this hard [in the competition], knowing that they're probably either in school full-time or they have full-time jobs," Heupel said. "They could easily say 'I don't have the time,' but they don't. They step up and they really work out."
Eisner said the mission of civil affairs Soldiers is what attracted him to the Army Reserve in the first place. "I always intended to join active duty, until I found out about civil affairs. That's what I really wanted to do," Eisner said. After studying political science in college, Eisner found that the civil affairs mission fused his classroom lessons with real-world applications.
"Actually going to work on reconstruction projects and getting to work with foreign governments was the dream job I didn't know actually existed," he said.
"All of our Soldiers love what they do, and we have high retention rates because of that," Heupel said. "If you're excited about your job, you're going to be excited about being in the military, and [Eisner] does that very well."
While the command's headquarters is located at Fort Bragg, N.C., its Best Warrior Competition is held at a different location each year.
"We like to take a location that has both a civil affairs and a psychological operations unit co-located, this keeps us from having to have it at Fort Bragg every year," said Sgt. Maj. Charlie Fergurson, the event's coordinator from the command's headquarters. The 308th Psychological Operations Company and the 418th Civil Affairs Battalion are both located in Belton, Mo. and provided personnel to help support the event.
"We're able to come out to the locations where the Soldiers really live and work, support the local economy and have a good competition," Fergurson said.
Eisner and Kime will both represent the U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (Airborne) in the U.S. Army Reserve Command's Best Warrior Competition in July.