Candidates share thoughts as CASCOM competition begins
1 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Staff Sgt. Shaun Brown Watkins from Echo Company, 832nd Ordnance Battalion, makes his first attempt at a Standing Power Throw during the opening Army Combat Fitness Test event of the Combined Arms Support Command Best Squad/Drill Sergeant the Year Competition early Monday morning at Fort Lee, Va. Brown Watkins is among the DSOY competitors. (Photo Credit: Patrick Buffett) VIEW ORIGINAL
Candidates share thoughts as CASCOM competition begins
2 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Staff Sgt. Marquaveus Murray from C Company, 16th Ordnance Battalion deadlifts 340 pounds during the opening Army Combat Fitness Test event of the Combined Arms Support Command Best Squad/Drill Sergeant the Year Competition early Monday morning at Fort Lee, Va. Murray is among the DSOY competitors. (Photo Credit: Patrick Buffett) VIEW ORIGINAL
Candidates share thoughts as CASCOM competition begins
3 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Staff Sgt. Marquaveus Murray from C Company, 16th Ordnance Battalion fights for every last second of holding a plank position during the opening Army Combat Fitness Test event of the Combined Arms Support Command Best Squad/Drill Sergeant the Year Competition early Monday morning at Fort Lee, Va. Murray is among the DSOY competitors. (Photo Credit: Patrick Buffett) VIEW ORIGINAL
Candidates share thoughts as CASCOM competition begins
4 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Candidates begin the two-mile-run portion of the Army Combat Fitness Test early Monday morning as the Combined Arms Support Command Best Squad/Drill Sergeant of the Year Competition got underway at Fort Lee, Va. Field events followed and continued into Tuesday. Competitors are being challenged by an array of Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills including reacting to a small arms attack, setting up a hasty fighting position, land navigation, weapons range qualification and more. (Photo Credit: Patrick Buffett) VIEW ORIGINAL
Candidates share thoughts as CASCOM competition begins
5 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Staff Sgt. Saul Armenta, a Logistics Noncommissioned Officer Academy instructor, performs a task of the Sprint-Drag-Carry event during the opening Army Combat Fitness Test portion of the Combined Arms Support Command Best Squad/Drill Sergeant the Year Competition early Monday morning at Fort Lee, Va. Armenta is among the Best Squad competitors. (Photo Credit: Patrick Buffett) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT LEE, Va. – “It’s pretty much the definition of win-win,” observed Staff Sgt. Saul Armenta, a Logistics Noncommissioned Officer Academy instructor and one of the 18 Soldiers now taking part in the Combined Arms Support Command Best Squad/Drill Sergeant of the Year Competition here this week.

Armenta went on to say he is “humbled and grateful” for the opportunity to compete alongside some of the best NCOs in CASCOM. “I feel like I’m already a winner just being here,” he said while catching his breath after a good showing in the Sprint-Drag-Carry event of the Army Combat Fitness Test – the competition’s opening event early Monday morning.

“Of course, we’re all here because we want that title in the end. What a privilege that would be. [However,] it’s a reward to just have this opportunity. It inspires me to do my best. That’s what I’m already taking away from this.”

The 15-year Soldier hailing from Hanford, California, was not the only competitor to share such sentiments, and rightfully so, given that subordinate entities of the command spend a good part of the year hosting lower-level competitive events to determine the best representatives to send forward to the CASCOM showdown. Winners from here will either advance to the Training and Doctrine Command Best Squad competition in September at Fort Bragg, N.C., or the All-Army DSOY meet hosted by the U.S. Army Center for Initial Military Training in August.

“This is a very powerful moment for me,” reflected Staff Sgt. Marquaveus Murray, a DSOY competitor from C Company, 16th Ordnance Battalion. He hails from Angel Hurst, Mississippi, and has been in the Army for 9 years.

“Part of it is just knowing I’m here in the company of the best warriors and best drill sergeants across CASCOM,” Murray said. “Another part of it is being a model of what we preach as Army trainers. I tell my Soldiers to be the best versions of themselves every day and to put 100 percent effort into everything they do. Being part of this competition exemplifies that thought. It shows we’re leading by example.”

Staff Sgt. Abraham Soto, an advanced individual training instructor with the 832nd Ordnance Battalion, exuded confidence as he observed the Standing Power Throw activities on the ACFT pad. He had already taken his turn, hitting an impressive distance of nearly 15 meters.

“I think it’s one of the highest honors to be here because it represents recognition of who you are as a Soldier and NCO leader,” said the Puerto Rico native. “It’s payback for the training you put in and the hard work to make yourself mentally and physically stronger. I already feel like a winner being here because I’m building bonds with these fellow NCOs and demonstrating the drive of the U.S. Army Soldier.”

Also hailing from Puerto Rico, Staff Sgt. Jeremy Rodriguez, from R Company, 262nd Quartermaster Battalion, called his presence on the DSOY competitor roster a “privilege.” The competition, he reflected, goes well beyond representing one’s company or battalion. He feels an obligation to put his best foot forward for the Quartermaster Corps and the overall sustainment community.

“A big reason I’m here is because I look at myself in the mirror every day and promise I’m going to do the best I can at being a Soldier, NCO and leader,” he said. “This is personal for all of us. It’s about stepping up and demonstrating the belief in ourselves and our profession.”

Summing up what it would mean for him personally to win the DSOY title, Staff Sgt. Shaun Brown Watkins from Echo Company, 832nd Ord. Bn., succinctly said “it would mean everything.”

“It says a lot about who you are as a Soldier,” said the Athens, Alabama, native who has been in the Army for 13 years. “It’s a measure of how dedicated you are to this profession. Overall, though, I’m really not doing this for me; it’s for my Soldiers. I want them to be able to say ‘my drill sergeant is the best in CASCOM.’ I want them to know they’re being trained by the very best.”

Overseeing the competition activities this week is Sgt. Maj. Kerrick Loyd, CASCOM G3/5/7 SGM and the event’s chief organizer. Clearly pleased by the glitch-free opening event, he optimistically said, “it’s going to be a good day.” Field events were set for the rest of Monday and all day Tuesday. The competitors are being challenged by an array of Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills including reacting to a small arms attack, setting up a hasty fighting position, land navigation, weapons range qualification and more.

The drill and ceremonies event and board appearances are set for Wednesday. The competition concludes Thursday with an early morning 12-mile ruck-march and the awards ceremony beginning at 9:30 a.m. on Seay Field, adjacent to the CASCOM headquarters. All of it will be the outcome of an arduous six-month planning, coordinating, tasking, training and rehearsal process.

“I’m confident this is going to be a good competition,” Loyd confirmed. “We have everything in place to determine who the best Soldiers are (out of 13,000 across the Sustainment training community) to represent CASCOM going forward to the next levels of competition. There is no other way to describe this moment than awesome.”