FORT BLISS, Texas - Competitors of the Regional Health Command-Central Best Leader Competition completed their first day with a bracket-style combatives tournament at Fort Bliss, Texas, April 10, 2022. While the temperature blazed above 80 degrees without a cloud in the sky, the competitors gave their all to prove that they have what it takes to be the best.

The tournament took place in an outdoor area near Biggs Park. Participants were divided based on their rank, with officers, non-commissioned officers, and junior enlisted soldiers competing separately.

In the end, Capt. Adam Pinegar, assigned to Reynolds Army Health Clinic at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, won the officer bracket. Sgt. Denzel Escoto, assigned to Dental Health Activity at Fort Bliss, won the NCO bracket. Spc. Jeremy Pakulak, assigned to Brooke Army Medical Center at Joint Base San Antonio, won the junior enlisted bracket.

Spc. Calin Allen, a lane operator at the Best Leader Competition, assigned to White Sands Missile Range Dental Clinic, New Mexico, said by the time the competitors began combatives they were certainly physically tired.

“They had to wake up at 3 a.m. and do an Army Combat Fitness Test, then they had to do an obstacle course, water survival, and then right after, fight,” said Allen. “They’re tired.”

Command Sgt. Maj. Timothy Sprunger, with Regional Health Command-Central at Joint Base San Antonio, Texas, echoed Allen’s remarks. He knows Soldiers at all ranks and ages are being tested to their limits, and that’s the goal. He emphasized the importance of the competition beyond the participants just proving they’re the best.

“All of these events that they’re doing increase readiness,” said Sprunger. “We can’t save lives on the battlefield unless we can survive on the battlefield.”

With pride in his voice and a smile on his face, Sprunger went on to boast about the Army Medical Corps as well as the work that gets put into events like the Best Leader Competition.

“These types of competitions at this level, with this amount of rigor and relevance that we have built into this, truly builds esprit de corps and shows that Army medicine is ‘Army Strong’,” said Sprunger.