FORT LEE, Va. – The 80th Training Command (The Army School System) hosted this year’s consortium of the Best Warrior Competition from March 23 to March 30, 2023 with Sgt. 1st Class Lee Sweeney, a Combat Engineer (12B) from the 1st Brigade (Engineer), 102d Training Division, taking home the top honor of Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) of the year for the 80th.
During this year’s competition, U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers from throughout the three divisions under the 80th – the 94th Training Division, the 100th Training Division, and the 102d Training Division – competed for the chance to be named the command’s “Best Warrior,” with Soldiers from the 3d Medical Command, 63rd Readiness Division, 76th Operational Response Command, 81st Readiness Division, 88th Readiness Division, 99th Regional Support Command and the 807th Medical Command also competing for their respective command’s top spot. The competition consisted of physical fitness events, marksmanship drills, common military tasks, written exams, as well as a swim event. All 43 competitors this year also had the opportunity to earn the German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge (GAFPB) and earn the Excellence in Competition (EIC) Badge, the oldest marksmanship badge in the Army. In addition to being named the 80th's “Best Warrior,” Sweeney earned a bronze GAFPB and was awarded an Army Commendation Medal at the culminating awards ceremony.
The winners now get the chance to move on to their next challenge and represent their commands by competing at the BWC held by the U.S. Army Reserve Command.
Sweeney entered the competition to challenge himself. He said he wanted to make sure he could still do the tasks he required of his Soldiers. His goal for this competition was “confirmation,” as he put it. “Confirmation that I still have what it takes to continue to do this job each and every day,” he said. “That way, my Soldiers know that they’re not just being led blindly.”
Sweeney’s advice for Soldiers thinking about competing in a BWC is to “do it!” He said it is not something you can just get up off the couch and do, you must train for the competition, but he believes it is worth it. He advised future competitors to not go into the competition with the mindset of wanting the award, but to go in wanting the experience.
Sgt. 1st Class Anthony B. Cotter, also with the 1st Brigade (Engineer), 102d Training Division, was named the NCO of the Year Runner-Up. Cotter volunteered for the competition to make sure his battle buddy, Sgt. 1st Class Sweeney, had support. He was also motivated by knowing that throughout the competition, he could challenge himself to be a better Soldier and be a better leader for his subordinates.
Cotter said that even though he was faced with having to run almost 15 miles through the land navigation course, followed by a 12-mile ruck march and Situational Training Exercise lanes the next day, he had a great time. He stated that from this experience, he was able to know firsthand how the physical demands of his military occupational specialty can affect his Soldiers and he will now make sure they are receiving the adequate amount of rest time needed for them to continue performing their duties.