By: SGT Bradley Creamer
Soldiers from the 111th Theater Engineer Brigade stationed on Camp Buehring and Camp Arifjan, Kuwait had the opportunity to compete in the Quarterly Best Warrior Competition on Thursday, July 8, 2021.
Each competing unit provided an enlisted Soldier and a Noncommissioned Officer to compete for the change to win an Army Commendation Medal and bragging rights for themselves and their units.
The competition provided Soldiers an opportunity to test their skills across four different events; the Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT) a written test, the Engagement Skills Trainer (EST) and an oral in-person board.
“This competition tests basic Soldier skills and requires them to maintain professional demeanor when subjected to physical and mental stressors,” said 1st Sgt. Jason Ranson, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 111th Theater Engineer Brigade’s First Sergeant. “It’s a great measure of a Soldier’s resiliency while under pressure.”
The events were selected to place equal emphasis on physical fitness, technical knowledge, mental aptitude, and tactical ability. A Soldier could not expect to win the competition based solely on one or two events - they needed to be the total package.
The leadership of each represented unit selected their competitors based on their level of motivation, physical fitness abilities, and overall aptitude. These Soldiers were already standouts amongst their peers; however, this competition demonstrated true grit. Iron sharpens iron.
Staff Sgt. Christopher Couch, the NCO competitor from Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 111th Theater Engineer Brigade, kicked off the day long event by having the Soldiers conduct Physical Fitness Preparation Drills to warm up prior to the ACFT.
Although the event began at 4:00 a.m., the temperatures were already reaching 100 degrees. Many of the Soldiers got a maximum score on multiple events within the ACFT with one Soldier scoring 593 out of a possible 600 points for the entire six-event test.
“I definitely believe that competing in the Best Warrior Competition has made me a more capable Soldier,” said Spc Trevor Alexander, the enlisted Soldier competition runner up. “I dug deeper than I have in a long time, and it gave me confidence in my abilities and leadership potential.”
Following the ACFT, a written test was administered to measure the Soldiers’ technical expertise. NCOs and Soldiers received different tests, with the test criteria reflecting the knowledge they should demonstrate based on their grade. Following the written test, Soldiers completed the Engagement Skills Trainer (EST) with the M4 rifle and M9 pistol.
The EST simulates live weapons training events with a computer program that utilizes modified military weapons to closely mimic training and qualifications one would experience on a live range. These modifications allow realistic handling and recoil to simulate real live-fire exercises.
When selecting Soldiers for competitions such as this, often the first thing that comes to mind is how physically fit they are or how well they can shoot. With that said, both the winners cited the board as being their strongest event.
“I spent months preparing myself. As an NCO, I need a wide spectrum of knowledge,” said Sgt Andres Garcia, Soldier of the 766 Engineer Company and winner of the NCO category.
The winner for the lower enlisted, Spc. Joseph Colony said, “the board was my strongest event, I believe the key to my success was my prior active duty experience and the training from my NCOs.”
Soldiers’ motivations for participating can vary drastically depending on who you ask. Some are there to prove something, some to gain promotion potential over peers, a shot at an award, and some to challenge themselves.
“For me, winning was my opportunity to be a reflection of all the hard work and support others put into me, “said Garcia. “Showing my leaders how far they’ve helped me come was my motivator.”
When speaking with the winners, one common trait stood out. These individuals all had a very high level of discipline.
“When I went to the boards, I already had a high level of confidence from all the hours of studying and diving into regulation,” said Garcia. “That discipline to go the extra mile pays dividends.”
The 111th Theater Engineer Brigade Command Sergeant Major, Command Sgt Maj. Waymon Cogar, explained that the leaders of the competitors should be just as proud.
“It is our job as NCOs to train Soldiers. The Best Warrior Competition is an opportunity for the NCOs and Soldiers to showcase their knowledge and skills.” Cogar said, “I think it went very well - we can take what we learned from this to improve the events for next time. We intend to hold the quarterly competition again for first quarter of the fiscal year in early October.”
All the competing Soldiers seemed to leave in high spirits regardless of the overall outcome. Cogar said that the competition winners were determined by just a few points difference and all Soldiers should be proud of their performances.
“It was a lot of fun. I feel that my experience with this has a large impact on how I will view future events like this,” Colony said. “I would encourage others to challenge themselves and participate in future competitions as well.”