When the Futures and Concepts Center sent out invitations for NCOs to compete in its 2022 Best Warrior Competition, the Chaplain Capability Development Integration Directorate was skipped because the directorate only has a few noncommissioned officers.
But Sgt. 1st Class Robert Gulbrandsen, a religious affairs NCO at the Chaplain CDID, reached out to FCC, letting them know he wanted to compete. He was added to the roster, and after days of grueling events out in the desert of El Paso, Texas, Gulbrandsen was named FCC’s Best Warrior on April 28. Gulbrandsen now advances to the Army Futures Command Best Warrior Competition in June.
Gulbrandsen joined Staff Sgt. Erick Alvarez, Fires CDID; Sgt. Ken Wilson, Intelligence CDID; Sgt. 1st Class Jose A. Mercado Guzman, Joint Modernization Command; and Staff Sgt. Najee Oliver, Maneuver Support CDID, in a difficult and rewarding competition at Fort Bliss.
Command Sgt. Maj. Robin Bolmer of FCC encouraged the NCOs during the week, urging them to continue giving their all.
“These five NCOs raised their hands and volunteered to come out here and put themselves on the line, show their vulnerability and not be afraid to fail,” Bolmer said. “I thank them for doing that, because that’s important. They could have easily sat at home and not came out here to compete, and no one would have said a word.”
Among the tasks the competitors completed during three days were the ACFT, a desert obstacle course (including more than a few desert thorns), a foot march and combat run, warrior skills lanes, land navigation, and verbal and written examinations.
The competition was organized and run by the NCOs of the U.S. Army Joint Modernization Command, led by Sgt. Maj. James Knops, JMC’s G3/5/7 sergeant major. Months of dedicated planning led to a well-run competition that tested the limits of the participants. During an awards ceremony at the end of the competition, Knops spoke about what the competitors went through.
“Over the past three days, the NCOs in front of you have endured pain, torture, heartbreak and jubilation,” Knops said. “They have completed more than 25 tasks, testing their physical ability and agility, warrior skills, knowledge and marksmanship. They have felt the artificial turf of despair, the sting of desert dust and the scorched earth of Fort Bliss, Texas. They have wandered aimlessly into the abyss and returned stronger, leaner and wise.”
After being named the winner of the FCC’s 2022 Best Warrior Competition, Gulbrandsen talked about the factors in his life that have pushed him onward during hard times.
“It’s difficult at times when you grew up with a difficult father who puts a lot of pressure on you to do your best,” Gulbrandsen said. “Not once in my entire life has my father told me he's proud of me. I just kept telling myself, I'm just going to keep pushing and keep pushing, and maybe one day I'll earn it. Hopefully today is that day.”
Earlier in the week, Gulbrandsen spoke about his inspiration to be part of the Best Warrior Competition.
“I’m actually very excited and enjoying it simply because I like to give back to the training that was given to me since I was young buck coming up in 10th Mountain Division,” he said. “I feel like they trained me well. I feel like the information stuck, and I want to be able to represent that history, that heritage, and all that time that I've spent in the Army.”