SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hi. – “These past couple of days were pretty rough,” said U.S. Army Pfc. Kendrick Ward Jr. through labored breaths, his glasses askew and his uniform discolored with the dirt and sweat of the last six days.
The 2022 Best by Test Competition hosted by the 25th Infantry Division Artillery at Schofield Barracks, Jan. 30 - Feb. 4, was not created for the faint of heart, demonstrating that U.S. Army Soldiers and U.S. Marines will do anything to prove that they are the best.
“It was pretty stressful and had very strenuous activities,” said U.S. Army Pfc. Kendrick Ward Jr. of Charlie Battery, 3rd Battalion, 7th Field Artillery Regiment, 25th Infantry Division, after completing the final ruck march, signifying the end of the competition. “Everything was timed so you’ve got to make sure you push yourself and drive on. It was tough, man.”
The itinerary of the weeklong competition included over 30 miles of ruck marching, the Army Combat Fitness Test, job specific testing, digital and live fire missions, ambush missions, radar maintenance, nighttime land navigation and air missions, pool and hill physical training sessions, water and land obstacle courses, the Green Mile, and a timed race through the CBRN Chamber.
Although the competition was not always easy, Ward learned to push himself both mentally and physically.
“I had to learn that it’s just a fact that I have to keep going, keep on striving, because if I stop right there everything that I worked for would just go to waste,” said Ward.
However, the hard work did not just benefit him individually. Throughout the week, Ward witnessed increased cohesion within his unit.
“It brought my guys together because we learned how to work as a team, and we learned who was strong at what and who was weak at something else. So, what made it better was the fact that we were able to put our heads together and just execute,” said Ward.
U.S. Marine 1st Lt. James Holland, 1st Battalion, 12th Marines, also felt an increased sense of teamwork within his own unit and with members from the U.S. Army 25th Infantry Division Artillery.
“Everyone was super professional, great guys to work with,” Holland said of his Army counterparts. “I would work with them any other day, would love to fight besides any of them.”
But invaluable connections were not just made between branches and within established teams.
U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Brendon Badua, Charlie Battery, 1st Battalion, 12th Marines, and U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Stephan Hodgemire, Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 25th Infantry Division Artillery, both found the competition useful as new members of their sections.
“It’s been nice training with them,” said Badua, “I got to know them really well and bond with them. Since now I know how this section works, we can look forward to working together in the future and the next deployment that we’re going on.”
Hodgemire also agreed that the challenges from the week helped increase team bonding.
“I’m brand new here so this is basically my first meeting of my guys,” said Hodgemire. “I think that we’ve got a good bead on each other and we’ve just kind of come together and we’ve overcome a lot.”
Although the competition was a mental and physical test for all involved, Hodgemire believes that his Soldiers already had the willpower within them to compete in the competition to prove that they are the best.
“At the end of the day, they’ve wanted it,” Hodgemire said. “They’ve been the ones that wanted to continue, whether it was for themselves or each other, they wanted it. I didn’t have to keep them glued together; they did it themselves.”
The hard work especially paid off for the following teams who can now call themselves the best until next year’s Best by Test Competition.
Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 2nd Battalion, 11th Field Artillery Regiment, 25th Infantry Division won Best Q50 Radar Crew, Best Q53 Radar Crew, and the Best Fire Support Team, while C Battery, 3rd Battalion, 7th Field Artillery Regiment took home the awards for Best Fire Direction Center and Best M777A2 Howitzer Section. The Best M119A3 Howitzer Section was awarded to A Battery, 3rd Battalion, 7th Field Artillery Regiment and the title of Best Maintenance Section now belongs to Fox Forward Support Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Field Artillery Regiment.