FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — The Maneuver Support Center of Excellence and the U.S. Army Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear School each held their 2021 Best Warrior competitions here last week.
The winners were announced in separate ceremonies April 30.
The MSCoE winners are:
— Officer of the Year: 1st Lt. John-Wesley Smith, Company D, 795th Military Police Battalion;
— Drill Sergeant of the Year: Staff Sgt. Aquai Alexander, Company A, 554th Engineer Battalion;
— Joint Service Noncommissioned Officer of the Year: Air Force Tech. Sgt. Darren Ruth, 368th Training Squadron;
— NCO of the Year: Staff Sgt. Joshua Newbury, Sapper Training Company;
— Joint-service Junior Enlisted of the Year: Marine Lance Cpl. Tyson Ehnat, U.S. Marine Corps Detachment;
— Soldier of the Year: Pfc. Terrel Rechsteiner, Sapper Training Company.
The Drill Sergeant of the Year, NCO of the Year, and Soldier of the Year winners will represent MSCoE at the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command Best Warrior Competition, scheduled to be held here in July.
The MSCoE awards were presented at Lincoln Hall Auditorium by Maj. Gen. James Bonner, MSCoE and Fort Leonard Wood commanding general, and MSCoE and Fort Leonard Wood Command Sgt. Maj. Randolph Delapena.
Some of the events had “mysteries thrown in,” Delapena said, including the addition of the plank event after the leg tuck during the Army Combat Fitness Test and the wear of gas masks while completing the Physical Endurance Course.
“Those sitting here today pushed through 72 grueling hours of unknown … they had no clue what they were going to end up doing,” he said.
Bonner thanked the teams of loved ones and the chains of command who supported the competitors.
“I just love our teamwork here,” he said. “Thanks to the competitors who got out there and had the guts to try.”
Rechsteiner, from Millville, Utah, said “lots of hard work and long hours” went into preparing for the competition.
“You have to sacrifice a lot of weekends,” he said. “You’re pushing your body to limits you didn’t know were possible. I just kept thinking back to why I joined the Army — the people in this great nation that I love.”
Newbury, a Sapper from Columbus, Georgia, said although he feels comfortable with the physical aspect to a competition like this, he’s still “a little shocked” he won.
“I made a few mistakes that I thought might have cost me the competition, but I’m glad to see they didn’t and I’m just super excited,” he said. “This is something I’m used to — doing things fast paced with few hours of sleep — and that’s what I think maybe gave me an edge over a lot of other competitors.”
Ruth, the lone Air Force competitor this year, from Minford, Ohio, said “it takes a team behind you helping and supporting you the whole way.”
“It was a tough competition,” he said. “The two competitors in my category were very good — they beat me in quite a few events. It was nice to see how I rack and stack with the other branches and I’m glad I was able to represent the Air Force well.”
The 12-mile ruck event was one of the moments Ruth said he thought about quitting.
“Toward the end, I wanted to give up,” he said. “I stopped a couple of times to get my composure, but I just kept telling myself, ‘I won’t quit. I won’t quit.’ All the rain that day was nice — it kept me cool — but the soggy boots, and it probably added a few pounds to the ruck as well.”
The Best CBRN Warrior Competition winners are Sgts. Joseph Stone and Mark Lacanlale, from the 112th Chemical Recon Detachment at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.
At the awards ceremony at Baker Theater, Brig. Gen. Daryl Hood, CBRNS commandant, called the 15, two-person teams that competed “second to none.”
“You represent the finest we have in the Chemical Corps,” he said. “I’m very proud of your accomplishments, and I am glad to serve with each and every one of you.”
This was the second competition for Stone, from Wenatchee, Washington — his team placed 10th in 2019.
“The first time was a huge learning experience for me and very humbling,” he said. “The last couple of years, I’ve grown in my knowledge and experience in the Army.”
Lacanlale, originally from Lacey, Washington, said “train-up was key to success.”
“We’ve been training for this together since August,” he said. “There’s a lot to cover.”
In addition to the soldiering skills included in the MSCoE competition, the CBRN event included many career-specific tasks, such as radiological surveys, chemical reactions and decontamination drills.
Stone said the teamwork required to perform the tasks makes the CBRN competition special — he and Lacanlale are on a decon team together at their unit.
“I like that about this competition,” he said. “A lot of Army competitions are one on one, but having that battle buddy there to support you and help drive you — keep you motivated — that’s how the Army operates. Teamwork is essential to winning.”