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 (BWC) on Wednesday, October 8, 2021.
Each competing unit provided a Junior Enlisted Soldier and a Noncommissioned Officer to compete for the chance 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 seven different events; the Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT) a written test, an oral in-person board, an obstacle course, land navigation, and using the Engagement Skills Trainer (EST) to compete by simulating M4 rifle and M9 pistol qualifications.
“It tests basic Soldier skills and requires them to maintain professional demeanor when subjected to physical and mental stressors,” said 1st Sgt. Jason Ranson of the 111th Theater Engineer Brigade. “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.
In addition to the challenges provided as part of the competition, many of the competitors had their own hurdles to overcome. NCO Runner up Sgt. Edgar Varela Suarez and Junior Enlisted winner Spc. Luis Rivera listed the board as the most challenging event because of English being their second language.
Most Soldiers list the board as the event they’re most nervous for, but to compete and place in spite of this challenge is a true testament to the determination of these competitors.
The 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. The winners all had their own areas that they excelled in that gave them the edge over the competitors, many with their highest scores coming from academic events.
Spc. Saige Thornhill of the 1022nd EVCC and Spc. Katelynn Bissell of the 111th TEB, both scored very high on the written test, with scores in the 90th percentile.
Rivera, the winner of the junior enlisted Soldiers, said, “I felt the weapons qualification and written test were my two strongest events. I was more confident because my sponsor helped me to study and ensure I was prepared.”
Rivera’s sponsor, Sgt. Andres Garcia, won the previous 111th TEB Best Warrior Competition.
Garcia previously stated, “for me, winning was my opportunity to be a reflection of all the hard work and support others put into me. Showing my leaders how far they’ve helped me come was my motivator.”
Garcia then stepped into that role by providing that same mentorship for Rivera.
Soldiers’ motivations for participating can vary 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.
“My biggest motivator for this competition was to be able to gain experience and jump above my peers on the promotion board. I wanted to be a stand out and get my E-5.” Thornhill said. “It was a huge boost to my confidence to know that I was competitive against so many other good Soldiers.”
When speaking with the winners, one common trait stood out. These individuals all had a very high level of discipline.
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.
“All of the competing Soldiers seemed to leave in high spirits regardless of the overall outcome,” Cogar said. “The competition winners were determined by just a few points difference and all Soldiers should be proud of their performances.”
Best Warrior Competition Winners:
NCO – SGT Justin Gregory (766 ECC);
Runner up – SGT Edgar Varela Suarez (527 FSC)
Soldier – SPC Luis Rivera (766 ECC);
Runner up – SPC Saige Thornhill (1022 ECC)