JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawai'i - Air defenders from across the Indo-Pacific came to Oahu to compete in the first-ever 94th AAMDC Best Squad Competition from July 5-10, 2022. The command is using the Best Squad Competition as a way to change how NCOs from the Command Sergeant Major down to the newest Private conduct training, lead, and build bonds across sections and directorates.
Cmd. Sgt. Maj. Neil Sartain sees Best Squad and Best Warrior Competitions as an opportunity to not only identify the best competitors but to take advantage of the opportunity to teach and develop leaders. "Seeing everyone from the Directorate Sergeants Major down to the junior soldier working together reinforced the importance of these types of events. As the backbone of the Army we must constantly build teamwork and cohesion, and ensure we are training not only our subordinates, but our peers and superiors on what's important. These competitions provide us with another avenue to build upon the readiness of our soldiers and our organizations. Not only with the competitors executing the tasks within the competition, but also with the NCOs and Soldiers planning, coordinating, and facilitating those tasks. Through these competitions, we are seeing development throughout the entire team."
The Best Squad Competition is a new event for the Army, and developing the plan required input from NCOs at all levels. The events included the Army Combat Fitness Test, weapons familiarization, grenade throw, claymore emplacement, land navigation, knowledge essay, a 12-mile ruck march, and capped off with an operations order briefing. The focus wasn't on evaluating individual soldiers or NCOs, but on how the squad operated as a team - how well they knew each other, complimented strengths and compensated for weaknesses, and took care of each other.
Sgt. Maj. Victor Milam is the Operations Sgt. Maj. for 94th, and served as the overall leader for the event. "We wanted to use this to show how Sergeants Major lead Master Sergeants, how Master Sergeants lead Sergeants First Class, and so on. The word we keep coming back to is 'deliberate' - being deliberate in what we do, why we do it, and how we do it. Leadership is the single thing that most affects junior Soldiers, and we have to ensure we're training all of our NCOs to do right by them." As the Army reckons with a difficult recruiting and retention environment, ensuring soldiers are led well is a vital factor to not individual wellbeing, but the success of the organization.
Cmd. Sgt. Maj. Sartain is using these types of competitions to ensure NCOs at all levels are continuing to train and engage with their juniors. SFC Alec Stajkowski, the G3 operations NCO, saw the benefits of helping run events. "Coming back to an operational unit from teaching at the schoolhouse, it was great to have a chance to teach younger NCOs how to conduct a training event like the ACFT."
The NCOs and soldiers of the 38th ADA BDE Headquarters ultimately took home the win. For Pfc. Felix Rosario, the junior member of the squad, it was an eye-opening experience. "This was my first time doing warrior tasks and battle drills as part of a team since Basic Training, and this was a great chance to watch how the NCOs in the squad train and take care of their soldiers."
As Sgt. 1st Class Kenneth Black, the senior squad member, observed, "As a senior NCO, this was a great opportunity to spend time with junior Soldiers and NCOs and get back to the basics. We came together quickly as a squad and created strong bonds in a short period of time, and it was hugely rewarding."
The squad from 38th ADA BDE HQ will take its lessons learned and go on to participate in USARPAC's Best Squad Competition later this month, and will spend the next two weeks training hard to ensure that they don't leave anything on the table.