NY Army Guard Soldiers heading for Army Best Warrior competition
New York Army National Guard Sergeants Klayton McCallum, left, and Thomas Mulhern, both medics in the 2nd Battalion, 108th Infantry, will be representing the entire Army National Guard during the Army's Command Sgt. Major Jack L. Clark Jr. Army Best Medical Competition at Fort Polk Louisiana from January 23 to 27. The two posed for a picture on January 12 at the headquarters of the 2nd Battalion, 108th Infantry in Utica, New York. (Photo Credit: Courtesy photo) VIEW ORIGINAL

UTICA, N.Y. — For the second year in a row, two medics from New York’s Utica-based, 2nd Battalion, 108th Infantry Regiment, will represent the Army National Guard at the Army’s annual Best Medic Competition.

Sergeants Klayton McCallum, a Syracuse resident, and Thomas Mulhern, from the hamlet of Cincinnatus, will compete at the Command Sgt. Major Jack L. Clark U.S. Army Best Medic Competition at Fort Polk, Louisiana.

The grueling 72-hour competition begins January 23 and runs to the 27.

The events test Soldiers’ physical fitness, endurance, military knowledge and medical skills. They will be going around the clock with little sleep and get thrown challenge after challenge to test their abilities.

"The competition requires adaptability and agility, both physically and intellectually, through excruciating and continuous realistic tasks," said Master Sgt. Dustin Knapp, the senior medical operations non-commissioned officer for Army National Guard Medical Operations section.

In 2022, Staff Sgt. Dylan Delamarter, the 108th’s medical platoon sergeant, and Sgt. Ethan Hart, a medic in the platoon, represented the Army Guard against 21 other two-man teams.

Getting selected for the competition is a real honor, but there is a lot of pressure too, Mulhern said.

Spc. Brandon Gracia, Combat Medic Specialist, 4th Infantry Division, perform the low crawl during an physical training exercise for the Army's Best Medic Competition. Twenty-two two-Soldier teams from all around the world traveled to Fort Hood, Texas to compete in the finals to be named the Army’s Best Medic. The competition is a 72-hour arduous test of the teams’ physical and mental skills. Competitors must be agile, adaptive leaders who demonstrate mature judgment while testing collective team skills in areas of physical fitness, tactical marksmanship, leadership, warrior skills, land navigation and overall knowledge of medical, technical and tactical proficiencies through a series of hands-on tasks in a simulated operational environment.
Spc. Brandon Gracia, Combat Medic Specialist, 4th Infantry Division, perform the low crawl during an physical training exercise for the Army's Best Medic Competition. Twenty-two two-Soldier teams from all around the world traveled to Fort Hood, Texas to compete in the finals to be named the Army’s Best Medic. The competition is a 72-hour arduous test of the teams’ physical and mental skills. Competitors must be agile, adaptive leaders who demonstrate mature judgment while testing collective team skills in areas of physical fitness, tactical marksmanship, leadership, warrior skills, land navigation and overall knowledge of medical, technical and tactical proficiencies through a series of hands-on tasks in a simulated operational environment. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Daniel Herman) VIEW ORIGINAL

Their names were put in two months ago, McCallum said, but they only got a final confirmation a few days after the new year.

1st Sgt. Michael Hoffman, the top NCO in the battalion headquarters company, said he is confident that McCallum and Mulhern will meet the challenge. “These two NCOs are going to do outstanding,” Hoffman said. “They are highly technically and tactically proficient and physically fit. “

McCallum, who currently serves full-time as the 108th Infantry’s medical operations non-commissioned officer, joined the Army in 2014. He previously served as an airborne infantryman in the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Vincenza, Italy and became a medic when he joined the New York Army National Guard in 2017.

He changed from active duty to the Guard because he liked soldiering and “wanted to keep his foot in the door” as he pursued a civilian career, McCallum said. His inspiration to change his military occupational specialty came from two medics he served with in the 173rd.

McCallum has served as part of the COVID-19 response mission and deployed to Washington D.C. in the aftermath of the January 6, 2021 Capitol riot.

U.S. Army Sgt. Ethan Hart and Staff Sgt. Dylan Delamarter 2nd Battalion, 108th Infantry, 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, New York National Guard,  transport  a casualty during the Army's Best Medic Competition at Fort Hood, Texas on January 27, 2022. Twenty-two two-Soldier teams from all around the world traveled to Fort Hood, Texas to compete in the finals to be named the Army’s Best Medic. Hart and Delamarter represented the Army National Guard.
U.S. Army Sgt. Ethan Hart and Staff Sgt. Dylan Delamarter 2nd Battalion, 108th Infantry, 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, New York National Guard, transport a casualty during the Army's Best Medic Competition at Fort Hood, Texas on January 27, 2022. Twenty-two two-Soldier teams from all around the world traveled to Fort Hood, Texas to compete in the finals to be named the Army’s Best Medic. Hart and Delamarter represented the Army National Guard. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Daniel Herman) VIEW ORIGINAL

Mulhern joined the Army in 2012 and served as a medic in the 101st Air Assault Division before joining the New York Army National Guard in 2016.

He currently works in construction but previously served full-time as the medical readiness non-commissioned officer for the FEMA Region II Homeland Response Force. He was also one of 7,077 Soldiers and Airmen who took part in the state’s COVID-19 response.

The two both hold the Expert Field Medic Badge, or EFMB, which is the medical equivalent of the Expert Infantry Badge. Both Soldiers have also served as cadre during EFMB competitions held by the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum.

Mulhern and McCallum both have active duty and Army Guard experience which should make them successful at the competition, Knapp said. "These combat medics are true professionals and capable of delivering tactical combat casualty care under the toughest conditions," he said.

Staff Sgt. Abel Carlos and 1st Lt. Calvin Britt, 25th Infantry Division, carry a skid litter during an physical training exercise for the Army's Best Medic Competition. Twenty-two two-Soldier teams from all around the world traveled to Fort Hood, Texas to compete in the finals to be named the Army’s Best Medic. The competition is a 72-hour arduous test of the teams’ physical and mental skills. Competitors must be agile, adaptive leaders who demonstrate mature judgment while testing collective team skills in areas of physical fitness, tactical marksmanship, leadership, warrior skills, land navigation and overall knowledge of medical, technical and tactical proficiencies through a series of hands-on tasks in a simulated operational environment.
Staff Sgt. Abel Carlos and 1st Lt. Calvin Britt, 25th Infantry Division, carry a skid litter during an physical training exercise for the Army's Best Medic Competition. Twenty-two two-Soldier teams from all around the world traveled to Fort Hood, Texas to compete in the finals to be named the Army’s Best Medic. The competition is a 72-hour arduous test of the teams’ physical and mental skills. Competitors must be agile, adaptive leaders who demonstrate mature judgment while testing collective team skills in areas of physical fitness, tactical marksmanship, leadership, warrior skills, land navigation and overall knowledge of medical, technical and tactical proficiencies through a series of hands-on tasks in a simulated operational environment. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Daniel Herman) VIEW ORIGINAL

In 2022, the request for a medical team to participate in the Army’s competition came at the last minute, said Command Sgt. Major David Piwowarski, the New York Army National Guard’s top enlisted leader. Even then, the team beat half of the other competitors, he said.

This year the 108th Infantry Regiment volunteered early to field a team. “I think that Army Guard knows that they can count on New York to send ready Soldiers always,” Piwowarski said. “With the extra lead time, I am confident that this year’s competitors will excel, and make New York proud.”

To get ready for the Fort Polk competition, Mulhern and McCallum tapped into the experience Delamarter and Hart gained during the 2022 event.

While Hart deployed in June to the Horn of Africa with the New York Army National Guard’s Task Force Wolfhound, Delamarter has been working with them on a training plan.

Twenty-two two-Soldier teams from all around the world traveled to Fort Hood, Texas to compete in the finals to be named the Army’s Best Medic. The competition is a 72-hour arduous test of the teams’ physical and mental skills. Competitors must be agile, adaptive leaders who demonstrate mature judgment while testing collective team skills in areas of physical fitness, tactical marksmanship, leadership, warrior skills, land navigation and overall knowledge of medical, technical and tactical proficiencies through a series of hands-on tasks in a simulated operational environment.
Twenty-two two-Soldier teams from all around the world traveled to Fort Hood, Texas to compete in the finals to be named the Army’s Best Medic. The competition is a 72-hour arduous test of the teams’ physical and mental skills. Competitors must be agile, adaptive leaders who demonstrate mature judgment while testing collective team skills in areas of physical fitness, tactical marksmanship, leadership, warrior skills, land navigation and overall knowledge of medical, technical and tactical proficiencies through a series of hands-on tasks in a simulated operational environment. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Daniel Herman) VIEW ORIGINAL

They were able to visit the Medical Simulation Training Center at Fort Drum and did medical skills training with Delamarter, McCallum said. They spent time making sure they were technically ready.

Because there’s swimming involved, Delamarter also got them access to a swimming pool where they could jump in with their gear. “The water events make me a little nervous,” McCallum said.

The duo also spent time hiking with full packs, known as rucking. “The biggest challenge is the physicality of it,” Mulhern said. “It is my understanding that we are going to be rucking around a lot.”

Mulhern acknowledged that their competitors have been preparing for some time. They have competed in battalion, brigade and division competitions to get to the final competition. “They have been 175 percent for months,” he said.

But he and Mulhern “are immersed into it right now,” McCallum said. “We are going to execute once we get on the ground; whatever tasking they ask of us, whatever they want us to do, and do it with great enthusiasm and positivity.”