COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Sometimes you just don’t see it coming. Just when you think you, and everyone else around you, doesn’t believe you stand a chance of winning something, it just happens.
For Sgt. Joshua Yancey, an engagement control shift leader with the 19th Theater Missile Warning Company, 1st Space Battalion, 1st Space Brigade, at Naval Air Station, Sigonella, Italy, it happened. He recently won the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command’s Best Warrior Competition in dramatic fashion by pulling off a come from behind victory with his impressive performance in the competition’s final event - the administrative board before a panel of command sergeants major and first sergeants.
“I didn’t see this coming,” the 35-year-old Yancey said. “In a lifetime of failures, this is an impressive feat.”
From age 17 to joining the Army at 29, Yancey, from McDonough, Georgia, had a myriad of various entry-level jobs from bagging groceries to fabricating sheet metal. He bounced from job to job wandering through life not knowing what he wanted out of it.
One day while delivering pizzas on Fort Stewart, Georgia, it occurred to him he should join the Army to better his lot in life. After speaking with a recruiter and shedding some weight, he soon found himself taking the oath to defend his country, and shipped off to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, for basic training and his follow-on school to be trained in air defense on Patriot missile batteries.
“Initially, there was some fear going into the Army,” Yancey said, who admits to being somewhat sheltered growing up. “But once I found myself progressing within it, I began to gain confidence.”
After his first duty station at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, he graduated from the Army’s Joint Tactical Ground Station school, and was placed on a JTAGS crew in Qatar for a deployment. JTAGS provides space-based integrated, in-theater missile warning for joint forces worldwide.
With a JTAGS deployment under his belt, Yancey was now ready for his next assignment in Sigonella, Italy, arriving there in February. So far he has enjoyed his time overseas, and has settled into his job at Sigonella, but wanted a new challenge. The Best Warrior Competition came a calling, and Yancey figured it would be an opportunity to not only distance himself from his peers, but to physically and mentally challenge himself in common Soldier tasks.
“I generally shy away from hard things,” Yancey said.. “But usually when I do them, it has turned out to be beneficial to me.”
Some would classify Army Best Warrior Competitions as “hard.” A series of events consisting of Army Warrior Tasks, a physical fitness test, an obstacle course, land navigation courses, and marksmanship ranges, just to name a few, all packed into a fast-paced, rigorous schedule, typically over the course of four to five days, BWC is designed to test enlisted Soldiers on the very essence of what it means to be a Soldier.
And with Yancey winning SMDC’s BWC for noncommissioned officers, the victory confirms he now embodies that essence.
“This has been painful and scary at times, but a lot of fun, and a big confidence booster,” Yancey said. “I far exceeded my expectations here, did some things I’ve never done in the Army, and look forward to the next level of competition.”
Going into the final event - the administrative board - on the competition’s final day, Yancey and his fellow BWC competitors didn’t believe he was going to win. Admitting he doesn’t memorize Army regulations or information verbatim, Yancey didn’t see himself performing necessarily well in this particular event - one of the more difficult ones based on the competitor’s opinions.
“The general consensus, and I thought so as well, was another NCO - a staff sergeant - was going to win this,” Yancey said. “Apparently he was ahead of me going into the final event - the board, so I must’ve done really well on it. It was like pulling a rabbit out of a hat there at the end. No one expected this.”
Yancey will represent the command in the U.S. Army Forces Command (FORSCOM) Best Warrior Competition in August at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.