CHIEVRES AIR BASE, Belgium — For Sgt. Deven Guelde, relationships have always been a key source of motivation. From his Family to his fellow Soldiers, those bonds have always pushed him to succeed.
“My motivation is watching the successes of others,” said Guelde, an operations sergeant for the U.S. Army Garrison Benelux Directorate of Emergency Services. “Everything I do I want to reflect positively on them.”
Growing up in Bradford, Illinois, Guelde almost missed his opportunity to join the military. He initially applied to enlist in the Navy, but was denied twice due to a medical issue.
“I pushed up a waiver, they denied it, and I’d given up on it,” Guelde said. “I was going to play college basketball … at a private school in Iowa. I signed a contract with them.”
That all changed thanks to a chance meeting with a local Army recruiter at his high school.
“I told him about my situation, and that I couldn’t join,” Guelde said. “He was like ‘come work with me’ … one thing led to another, and I ended up joining the Army as a [military police].”
After attending training in Missouri, Guelde spent his first four years in the Army stationed at Fort Hood, Texas. It was there he received his first taste of military comradery.
“I had some of the best leadership,” Guelde said. “I think some people get a bad taste from their first unit — I left with a good taste in my mouth.”
This positivity is something that continued once he moved to USAG Benelux in 2020 and began taking on additional responsibilities.
While the administrative side of his new position was initially a struggle, the guidance from his new supervisor, Sgt. 1st Class Derrick Curtis, helped him grow and succeed in the role.
“I’ve learned so much being an operations sergeant and serving under him,” Guelde said. “I serve with a bunch of great people right now.”
Through it all, though, Guelde’s biggest motivating relationship has been his Family — his wife, Ronna Guelde, and daughter, Janey Guelde.
“My wife and my daughter are my rocks in life,” Guelde said. “I think most of my success in the Army I’ve had due to them.”
Guelde said he’s grateful for his wife’s support, especially when he was first learning how to be a Soldier.
“I was such an unskilled Soldier in the beginning,” Guelde said. “When I got the new gear … for a rotation I didn’t know how to set up my new plate carrier system. My wife figured out how to do it on her own, and she did it for me. She’s such an amazing person.”
Guelde attributes much of his motivation for the 2022 Best Warrior competitions to another bond in his life — the one with his subordinate, Sgt. Patrick Chayeb.
Guelde previously competed in smaller unit-level competitions at Fort Hood, as well as a larger competition while deployed to Grafenwöhr, Germany, in 2018, where he won Soldier of the Rotation.
Guelde initially decided to try out for the 2022 USAG Benelux Best Warrior Competition as an opportunity to practice field tactics that were different from his normal duties at the garrison. However when Chayeb entered the competition he became even more driven to compete, and win.
“Once he signed up and said he was going to do it with me, it was a huge boost to my motivation,” Guelde said. “I didn’t want him to win and me not win.”
The USAG Benelux competition was held on Chièvres Air Base, Belgium, in February. Lasting two days, it tested garrison Soldiers on a wide array of mental and physical tasks including marksmanship, responding to chemical attacks, rendering medical aid, physical fitness, proper uniform wear and interview skills.
At the end of the competition, Chayeb won best Soldier and Guelde won best noncommissioned officer. In addition to being recognized as the top competitors in the garrison, they earned the opportunity to move on and compete at the Installation Management Command–Europe level later that spring.
Guelde had to miss the IMCOM-Europe Best Warrior Competition due to a family emergency back home, however a surprising turn of events still allowed him to move forward and compete at the Army Materiel Command’s Best Warrior Competition in August.
His fellow IMCOM-Europe competitor? Chayeb.
“Chayeb went to [IMCOM-Europe] without me, and he made it.,” Guelde said. “I was so happy for him, but also a little bit sad I couldn’t go. Then the slot opened up for me and I knew my Soldier was going, so my motivating factor was … he’s going to be there enduring it and so I needed to be there with him.”
The AMC Best Warrior Competition was a six-day event held at Fort Benning, Georgia.
In addition to expanding the competition to include tasks such as an obstacle course and live-fire ranges, the event also threw a new obstacle its competitors from Europe in the form of Georgia’s hot, humid climate.
“I have never been humbled by weather like that before,” Guelde said. “There were times during the competition where I felt like I didn’t have any more water left in my body … we had a couple of competitors drop out the first day due to heat.”
However, Guelde’s biggest challenge wasn’t the humidity, but having to go into a tear gas chamber to simulate responding to a chemical attack.
“For me that’s probably the most terrifying thing in the Army,” Guelde said. “I’m absolutely horrified of the gas chamber.”
Once again, his bonds with his fellow Soldiers pushed him through.
“I saw Sgt. Maj. [Samara] Pitrie, she went in there with no gear on, just her mask,” Guelde said. “I was like ‘If she’s going to go in there without gloves on or anything, I’ll go in there too.’”
Guelde finished all components of the competition and ended up placing second in his rank. Since there was only one sergeant position for the next phase of the competition — the Army Best Squad Competition — Guelde became an alternate for the team.
Despite not winning the competition, Guelde is still proud of what he accomplished.
“For me, getting runner up [at AMC Best Warrior] was great,” Guelde said. “To win the whole thing would have been my goal, but it still felt awesome to be recognized that I got that close.”
Guelde also enjoyed getting to experience the competition, regardless of the outcome.
“It was awesome to see some of our other peers, see how we stack against them, and better ourselves as a team,” Guelde said. “That’s what really matters. It’s called a competition, but the training value you get in these competitions is way higher [than any award].”
For Soldiers considering trying out for similar competitions in the future, Guelde advises them to take the leap and sign up.
“Do it. Regardless of what you think you’re capable of, you’re going to find out…you’re probably capable of ten times more.”
For now, Sgt. Deven Guelde has his sights set on his education, aiming to complete his associate degree. His next career goal is to become either an Army drill sergeant or recruiter once he completes his assignment at USAG Benelux.
Guelde's 2022 Army Best Warrior accomplishments include:
- USAG Benelux Best Warrior NCO
- Army Materiel Command Best Warrior Sergeant Runner-Up
- Army Materiel Command Best Squad Alternate
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