FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — Fort Leonard Wood played host to the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command Best Warrior Competition this week, where 24 noncommissioned officers and junior enlisted Soldiers began day one on Monday and 16 made it through to the end — the two winners were announced July 23 during a ceremony at Lincoln Hall Auditorium.
Sgt. 1st Class Joshua Newbury, a Sapper Leader Course instructor here, won in the NCO category, and Spc. Kaelan Pugh, a health care specialist with the 5th Ranger Training Battalion, Fort Benning, Georgia, won in the junior enlisted category.
Throughout the 96-hour competition, the competitors faced physical and mental challenges as they completed marksmanship drills, obstacle courses, physical fitness events, medical evacuation tasks, a ruck march, interviews and written exams — all designed to find the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command’s best NCO and Soldier, according to Combined Arms Center Command Sgt. Maj. Steve Helton, who acted as host for the award ceremony.
“The purpose is for us to identify and validate the best NCO and junior enlisted Soldier in TRADOC, and we believe we’ve done that,” he said. “It’s a really competitive process that requires every one of these Soldiers to be physically fit, have the endurance and the mental drive to persevere, and also to pay particular attention to detail and follow instructions.”
Newbury said the level of competition was “very intense.”
“Everyone was very competitive; everyone was physically fit; everyone seemed to have prepared to a high level,” he said.
A few things took him by surprise throughout the week, he said.
“(Compared to the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence Best Warrior Competition in April), this competition didn’t have as much detailed instruction,” Newbury said. “It was hard to interpret what it was you had to do and you had to make sure you could adapt to the task at hand.”
Newbury said there was one point where he doubted himself.
“I had a bad group and zero,” he said. “I overcame it by remembering that the event was over and there was nothing I could do about it. I just had to move on and realize I can’t change what has already happened. You just have to focus on the next task at hand.”
Winning the TRADOC BWC takes “100-percent dedication,” Newbury said.
“You have to have the mindset to want to win — to understand that you’re gonna have to go hard. The saying for this competition was, ‘Go as hard as you can, do the best that you can, as fast as you can,’ and that wasn’t a lie. You really had to do that to set yourself apart.”
Pugh said he felt like every competitor was very motivated.
“It was very neck and neck,” he said. “You just had to persevere through all the extremely difficult tasks. It got to a point where it was no longer just physical pain, but it started to become that mental pain, where you had to grit through everything.”
To win, Pugh said you have to be able to fight through the pain.
“All the thoughts where you want to give up, you have to push those to the back of your mind and keep going and remember the end goal,” he said.
Fort Leonard Wood’s junior enlisted competitor from the Sapper Training Company, Spc. Terrel Rechsteiner, was runner-up in his category. He said TRADOC “amped it up” for this competition.
“There was a lot more walking; the rucks were very heavy — I think everyone was feeling it from day one,” he said. “It was very competitive. It was a lot of fun, but it definitely challenged me in a lot of ways. You can tell everyone who made it to the end trained and prepared for it and they pushed themselves really hard. You can tell they deserved to be here. The whole time going through it, you knew you had to be at the top of your game the entire time.”
Helton called Fort Leonard Wood “an ideal location” to host a best warrior competition.
“The terrain is challenging; the weather is challenging; and the mentality here is combat-focused,” he said.
The competition was made possible, Helton added, through the support of more than 150 people from MSCoE.
“It couldn’t have happened without that support,” he said.
Newbury and Pugh will next represent TRADOC in the Army Best Warrior Competition, set to be held in September at Fort Knox, Kentucky.
See photos from throughout the TRADOC Best Warrior Competition on the Fort Leonard Wood Flickr page.