FORT IRWIN, Calif. – Staff Sgt. David McAfee, the Weed Army Community Hospital primary care noncommissioned officer in charge, will represent Regional Health Command-Central at the U.S. Army Best Medic Competition next year.
McAfee represented Weed ACH during RHC-C’s Best Medic Competition Sept. 21-23, at Fort Carson, Colorado, and placed in the top two overall competitors.
The RHC-C competition this year held new challenges for McAfee, he said.
“Essentially, anytime you finished an event, they’d give you a distance, direction, a grid coordinate, and it was your responsibility to make it over to the next one,” he said. “They’re trying to orient everything toward the critical thinking aspect of it and not just all physical fitness.”
McAfee also represented RHC-C at the Army Best Medic Competition last year, where he and his partner took third place.
While McAfee said it would be tough to say whether the competition last year or this year was more difficult, there was one aspect that made both years different from the Army competition: food.
“[At the RHC-C Best Medic Competition] they give you all your MREs up front,” he explained. “At the Army competition, there are no food restrictions.”
Last year, McAfee and his partner won the RHC-C competition on leftovers from MREs, he said.
“We had just finished a 12-mile ruck march, we still had two events ahead of us and all we had was the tabasco sauce that was left over from the MRE and the salts, so we had to make do with that,” he said.
McAfee said he learned from last year’s competition and rationed better this year to tackle the competition events, which included an obstacle course, combat water survival test, day and night land navigation, and medical lanes.
During the obstacle course, competitors would complete an obstacle then immediately move to an Army Combat Fitness Test event.
“It was an interesting way to save time and resources, but to also fatigue us extra,” he said.
McAfee is slated to compete in the Army Best Medic Competition with the same partner from last year, Maj. Joseph Ahlborn, an optometrist with Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center on Fort Hood, Texas.
“I couldn’t ask for a better teammate when we go to the Army competition,” he said. “I already know his strengths and weaknesses, he knows my strengths and weaknesses and we make up for one another, if either of us are lacking.”
Winning the Army competition is the goal, but McAfee said avoiding an injury is also important.
“There’s just so much opportunity to get injured because of how hard you’re pushing yourself, the lack of sleep, and low visibility on rough terrain, so there’s a higher risk for injury at this location,” he said.
McAfee said part of the reason he pushes so hard during the competitions is because of the support from Weed ACH and Fort Irwin.
“I’ve received nothing but incredible support from everyone that’s been around, including command team, so helpful getting me time to train up for this [competition] and sending me where I need to go in order to be the best I need to be,” he said. “I understand how many resources have been dedicated to getting me to that point and so I’ll give nothing but my absolute best when I get there.”
Command Sgt. Maj. Dedraf Blash, the Weed ACH command sergeant major, attended the closing ceremony for the RHC-C competition.
Team WACH along with the National Training Center and Fort Irwin community are extremely proud of McAfee, she said.
“This year, with the assistance of Command Sgt. Maj Timothy Sprunger and our Regional Health Command-Central command teams, McAfee and the other representatives from the region had the opportunity to get more rigorous, realistic training throughout the region that will enable them to show and prove their skills,” Blash said. “The tenacity that [McAfee] has shown to be the best clearly shows in his winning spirit, as he also mentors other Soldiers to compete in other competitions such as Expert Field Medical Badges.”
McAfee said he is optimistic that he and his partner will do even better at the next Army competition.
“We came in third place [last year], and we’ve done nothing but get better since,” he said. “We’re both incredibly competitive people, so you’re not going to see us slack when we get out there.”
Blash said she has the same confidence in McAfee and his partner.
“We have no doubt that Staff Sgt. McAfee and his teammate Maj. Ahlborn will be the next Army Best Medic Team in January at Fort Hood,” she said.