Bastogne Soldiers from across 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), competed in a weeklong competition across warfighting functions for several accolades, but ultimately to win the title of “Best Battalion” during Bastogne Week.
Fifteen physical and mental events would decide who would hold bragging rights for the coming year.
Bastogne Week was held May 3-7 in the brigade footprint and across the installation with Soldiers competing within their respective warfighting functions and beyond on behalf of their respective battalions.
Before really digging into those technical and tactical functions, the competitors were faced with physical fitness competitions. The unit competed in a functional fitness competition, 10K foot race and a strongman competition to determine Bastogne’s best powerlifters.
Sergeant Anthony Cartaya, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, started the morning off by winning the 10K race with a time of 38:21. The race took place during a torrential downpour that just so happened to be in the calmest part of the storm that morning. The rain did not slow down Cartaya or derail him from bringing home the win for his battalion.
What’s incredible about the squad leader is he that could’ve run it faster.
“It was raining pretty hard,” Cartaya said. “It’s funny that now that the race is over the rain is just now slowing down. Either way I came to win. I saw I had a bit of a lead, so I slowed down a little bit.”
While No Slack lead the way in the cross-country challenge, the Bulldogs from 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, were chalking their hands with powder and doing warm-up sets with 225-pound weights and more in Fratellenico Physical Fitness Center.
Soldiers from each battalion lifted heavy weights ranging from 225 pounds to well over 500 pounds in the squat, dead lift and bench press competition. With the air in the gym filled with a haze of white powder from constant chalking of their hands to gain a grip on the bar, and puddles of sweat consistently being mopped from the gym mats, the Bastogne elite were establishing personal records at each station trying to win for their units.
Staff Sergeant Terry Partee, squad leader, C Company, 1-327 Inf. Regt. proved to be a giant among men. Partee dead lifted an amazing 635 pounds, performed a squat with 495 pounds and bench pressed 295 pounds.
“I’ve been lifting for a while now,” Partee said. “I enjoy it and I just wanted to come out and compete for us. I think I did pretty good. I definitely need to grab some food and rest after this one.”
Although Bastogne Week was physically exhausting, it contained events that required a high-level of technical and tactical competence. The week was intended to be a competition with a tactical focus to challenge each battalion to compete and assess the best of Bastogne.
These actions were seen in the best squad and heavy weapons competitions. Soldiers ran across the battalion footprint in full kit with their weapons heading to each station requiring them to fulfill a tactical task with speed and precision. Soldiers assembled and disassembled machine guns, conducted land navigation, conducted battle drills and even prepared their vehicles in a Readiness Condition 1 Status simulating preparation to initiate a real world mission.
Troopers fought to be error-free and move quickly. The teams have been training for the past several months at gunnery and live-fire exercises and it was clear.
Sergeant Justin Willis, D Company, 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, was proud of his squad and team.
“We’re doing better than we expected,” Willis said. “We’ve been together for only four months. Training at Camp Atterbury was the best training event we could’ve possibly had. We learned a lot and really grew together during gunnery and it’s helping us here. It shows.”
As Soldiers showed off their proficiency in the field, the rest of the warfighting functions were spread across Johnson Field. The troopers were in full kit showing their mastery of knowledge in communications, personnel, intelligence and sustainment. Communications experts were seen testing their radios and putting up an OE-254 Ground Communications Antenna, while battalion Adjutant Generals inspected Soldiers’ understanding of award documents, ensuring each form was error-free.
Specialist Nicholas Barry, human resources specialist, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1-327 Inf. Regt., was glazed with sweat after sprinting from the personnel tracker station to inspect a DA 638 award document for errors.
“I’m proud to be here,” Barry said. “I’m glad we actually get a little shine for the S-1’s out here today.”
The brigade personnel staff is currently second place in the division, and Spc. Hayley Hoffman, human resources specialist, HHC, 1st BCT wants to change that.
“This is a great way to increase our readiness,” Hoffman said. “Getting this paperwork right matters and effects a lot of people.”
As Bastogne Soldiers continued to fight for the top spot, the week began to draw to a close.
On May 7, Soldiers marched on to Engineer Field in front of Snipes Dining Facility for the awards presentation. The Soldiers were honored by the brigade commander and the brigade command sergeant major personally for each category, but in the end there could only be one winner.
The Soldiers from No Slack were honored as the winning battalion. Overall, the competition determined a best battalion, but it meant more to the competitors and junior Soldiers.
Sergeant First Class Candace Adams, psychological operations, HHC, 1st BCT was the lead planner for Bastogne Week and thought it was very beneficial for junior Soldiers.
“We were supposed to do this February,” Adams said. “The snowstorm derailed our plans and I’m glad we were able to get this done in warmer weather. This was the commander’s focus, but majority of this was for the junior Soldiers. To earn an award and get it pinned on you by the brigade commander makes all the hard work put in for this event for them worth it. To be able to do this as a brigade, especially after tighter COVID-19 restrictions and being able to stand out here and see all the colors on this field is worth it.”
Colonel Robert Born, 1st Brigade commander, was impressed with the talent that was on display during Bastogne Week.
“Our Soldiers and leaders brought forth their amazing talents and showed them to the brigade to compete to win,” Born said. “It should be no surprise that the winning squad are 100% Air Assault-qualified. An Air Assault Soldier is mentally tough, physically tough, intelligent, disciplined and can follow instructions. When you get Soldiers like that together. That is powerful. There is a lot of power associated with that.”
That winning Air Assault spirit will not stop there. Command Sgt. Maj. Derek Wise wants to propel that to the Expert Infantryman Badge and Expert Soldier Badge training and testing beginning later this month.
“When we talk about winning that’s exactly what this brigade did this week,” Wise said. “The winning Air Assault spirit is in this formation right now. It is a pleasure and I’m humbled to serve with each and every one of you. We’re going to take this spirit to the EIB and ESB in the next couple weeks and I want to see you earn your badges on 11 June with Bastogne Soldiers earning their respective badges.”