FORT LEE, Va. – Last week, the Combined Arms Support Command held the Best Warrior/ Drill Sergeant of the Year Competition here.
It was a rigorous, four-day showcase of Soldier skills consisting of the Army Combat Fitness Test, Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills, rifle qualification events, land navigation, an essay, a 50-question general knowledge exam and a 12-mile ruck march.
Specialist Jaleel Hunn, a 92A automated logistical specialist, won CASCOM Best Warrior of the Year; Staff Sgt. Ryan Columbare, a 42R musician, won Best NCO of the Year; and Staff Sgt. Cabot Cobb, a school of music instructor, won Drill Sergeant of the Year.
After the event, the Garrison Public Affairs Office contacted the Soldiers, asking them to reflect on the competition as they prepare for the subsequent Training and Doctrine Command meet set for June 20-24 at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.
Why did you compete in this year’s event?
Cobb: “My senior leadership encouraged me to take the opportunity and participate because it is a good experience whether you win or lose, although I didn’t want to be away from work and leave my battle buddies picking up my tasks.”
Columbare: “I wanted an opportunity to grow as a professional. Although you don’t need to be in a competition to seek out new knowledge and improve your fitness, I find it helpful to set goals and have a definitive timeline to achieve them. The Best NCO Competition was a vehicle for that.”
Hunn: “I competed at this year’s event because I wanted to set an example and be the standard. I may not have been the most knowledgeable, but I went out there and gave my all.”
How did you feel going into the competition?
Cobb: “I didn’t really think I would win because I hadn’t spent the time I felt was needed (preparing for) the competition. My primary focus as a drill sergeant is getting Soldiers from day one to graduation. We were at the end of our training cycle and there are even more tasks on graduation week. My fellow drill sergeants had to pick up my work to be gone for the week of the competition. I could not ask them to do even more (so I could spend) extra time preparing for BWC. I just had to go to the competition knowing I may not win, but I would do my best.”
Columbare: “Not confident at all. Many reservations. When I decided to compete, I came up with great fitness and study plans to help me do my best, but life happens. Some extra responsibilities got thrown my way at work, and I have two children less than three years old at home who don’t sleep the best at night. I could barely keep up with all my responsibilities and my training plan. Even though I missed some fitness training and didn’t get to study nearly as much as I planned, I kept training when I could.”
Hunn: “I felt prepared. My leadership motivated me and helped me prepare myself to stand out and be successful.”
What was the most challenging event for you?
Cobb: “The evaluation board. I find it difficult to articulate my thoughts well in a setting where there are six sergeants major judging me in a very limited timeframe.”
Columbare: “The M4 Rifle range. The event was my first time firing the new qualification table. I prepared by looking over Training Circular 3-22.9 and making sure I had a plan for my magazine changes. Fortunately, that was enough for me to stay competitive.”
Hunn: “The most challenging for me was the firing range. During the stress shoot, I definitely had to remind myself to focus on the tasks despite obstacles being thrown at me.”
What did you think when you heard your name announced as the winner?
Cobb: “I was surprised. There were many other competitors who could have won. I had decided prior to the award ceremony that regardless of the outcome, I had done my best and that’s all I can do.”
Columbare: “I was very surprised. All the competitors were highly competent and worked hard all week. I don’t think any of us could have guessed who would win.
Hunn: “It felt great because it was something I volunteered for and worked hard at. It was definitely refreshing being cheered on by my battles, my leadership and CASCOM.”
What does it mean to be selected as the winner of the competition?
Cobb: “I am proud to continue on and compete for CASCOM at the next level of the DSOY competition. I will spend more time studying and do the best I can. Regardless of the outcome at the next competition, I will represent CASCOM to the best of my ability.”
Columbare: “It’s humbling to be selected from such a fine group of NCOs, and it’s encouraging to see I am on the right path in the Army profession. It was special also to win alongside Drill Sergeant Cabot Cobb because we are from the same unit.
Hunn: “I’m humbled to have the title. All of the competitors pushed themselves (over the four days of the competition). It could have gone to anyone.”
How has your command/unit reacted to the win?
Cobb: “My command is very pleased that I have won. It is easy to be forgotten being in a unit that is not stationed at Fort Lee. (The School of Music is based at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story, Virginia Beach.) I believe they are happy that this is an opportunity for us to reestablish that connection with units here.”
Columbare: “I have received many congratulations. They seem super-pumped.”
Hunn: “They showed me a lot of love and positivity. They know how bad I worked for this and for them to all be there and cheer for me meant more than they will ever know.”
What is your biggest takeaway from the competition?
Cobb: “The relationships I built during the event. I met other drill sergeants and was able to ask how they handle various situations they encounter with their Soldiers. I was able to discuss issues with Command Sgt. Maj. (Jorge) Escobedo, something I would normally not have the opportunity to do.”
Columbare: “The most meaningful part of the competition was hanging out and learning from the collection of great professionals and awesome guys. I made several new friends and hope to see them all down the road in my Army career.”
Hunn: “I found out a lot about myself as a Soldier. I realized I can do anything I put my mind to. I am better now because of this competition.”
How do you feel heading into the TRADOC competition?
Cobb: “I know I’m facing a big obstacle, but I will work every day to overcome it. The CASCOM competition showed me what my flaws are and what I need to do to improve them.”
Columbare: “Definitely some intimidation, but I’m excited to meet the challenge. I’m seeking to improve my fitness – my goal is to max the ACFT – and cram some more knowledge into my memory before I go.”
Hunn: “I want to brush up on shooting and land navigation in order to be successful for my next mission.”
What would you want other Soldiers to know about the event?
Cobb: “It’s a competition, but it’s also a professional development opportunity. This is a chance for sergeants, staff sergeants and sergeants first class to interact with senior noncommissioned officer leadership. It is an opportunity to talk with other Soldiers who are doing the same job as you and learn new techniques to try when you return to your unit.”
Columbare: “Go for it! Don’t be tied to the outcome. I wasn’t expecting to win, I was trying to grow through the train up, have fun during the competition, and make some new friends. I accomplished all of those things. Winning was just a bonus.”
Hunn: “If you want to become the best warrior, it starts with yourself. Never settling but setting every goal high!”
For more photos of the event please visit https://www.flickr.com/photos/usarmycascom/albums/72157719326580736/page2