General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital hosted the Best Medic Competition for U.S. Army Medical Readiness Command, West in a series of challenging events held Oct. 10-14, but planning and preparation began months prior.
The competition culminated in an awards ceremony Oct. 14, where the GLWACH team was announced runner up to the winning team from Fort Irwin’s Weed Army Community Hospital. They will continue competing at the U.S. Army Best Medic Competition at Fort Polk, La., early next year.
Overall, 19 Competitors from 10 Military Treatment Facilities, ranging in ranks from specialist to first sergeant, and first lieutenant to major entered the playing field on the same level to see who would walk away as the MRC,W Best Medic.
The GLWACH team consisted of Maj. Les Armstrong, Chief of Pharmacy, from Brenham, Texas, and Staff Sgt. Garrett Troutt, Optical Fabrication Laboratory NCO in charge, from Kokomo, Ind. The two had recently been selected following a Best Medic Competition held for GLWACH Soldiers who wanted to compete.
Armstrong said completing the competition required mind over matter.
“First, I would say that you can always achieve more than your brain tells you,” Armstrong said. “We are wired to protect ourselves. I didn't think I could ruck 18.6 miles in a single setting, but when I reset that expectation in my mind, I was able to easily break through. If you want to compete, start telling yourself that you can and then go out there and start training.”
Troutt said he found his mettle by the thoughts of warriors past, who blazed the trails before.
“When I was at my weakest, I thought back to Soldiers in history who truly suffered and it made what I was doing seem much easier,” Troutt said. “The prior training prepared me well for the regional competition, but it is difficult to be 100% prepared for something so physically and mentally demanding.”
He added that for him, mental preparation is also important.
“My main focus prior to the [competition] was getting in the right state of mind to perform under pressure,” Troutt said. “I knew if I was in a good headspace that everything else would follow suit.”
The competition phases began months earlier, with GLWACH officials planning the competition events and utilizing the local training areas. Each event and training area was appointed a senior noncommissioned officer to provide the standardization details and challenges for each graded event. Then, each NCO would periodically brief the MRC, W senior NCOs on the plan to further refine the concept.
Capt. Cara Adams, GLWACH Outpatient Nutrition Lead, was the officer in charge for competition planning. She took a break from competing herself—Adams was selected this year by U.S. Army Medical Command for the U.S. Army Best Squad Competition—to help make the events challenging for the competitors. She has the experience of competing at the higher level. Adams hails from Attleboro, Mass.
“It was a whole different perspective being on the other side of competing and organizing all the moving pieces to develop a rigorous, relevant and realistic event to find MRC, W’s Best Medics,” Adams said. “The competition’s success was due to the commitment of the team.”
Adams said hosting was a welcomed task for the military treatment facility but it was a heavy lift for the organization’s leaders, especially without a break from the services the hospital provides for its beneficiaries.
Competition validation began internally, with GLWACH personnel initially, and was extended to a group of senior noncommissioned officers from MRC, W, who traveled here one week before the competition to run the gauntlet of events prior to the competitors having their turn.
Master Sgt. Brad Pickel, GLWACH Operations NCO in charge, said the validation ensured the events were both challenging and met MRC,W’s intent. Pickel is from St. Louis, Mo.
Pickel said this competition was made possible by validation and a collective and synergistic effort across the installation, MRC, W units, and post support activities.
“Validation was critical to the competition's success,” Pickel said.
Pickel said the validation served two distinct purposes: 1) External evaluators physically performed each lane ensuring our concept for the event aligned with (MRC, W) intent; and 2) The line between a physically/mentally/emotionally challenging event and a dangerous event can easily become blurred when your target population consists of exceptionally fit and intelligent Soldiers. Validation ensured we stayed on the challenging side of the line.
Pickel said the competition was designed in a manner that demanded more than demonstrable proficiency to be successful.
“Success required not only proficiency, but grit,” Pickel said. “This was accomplished through various stressors such as deployment-simulated environments, physical hardship, sleep restriction, simulators, pyrotechnics, and more. This was a challenge that only a U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command post like Fort Leonard Wood can accommodate.”