FORT MOORE, Ga. − Maneuver Center of Excellence leaders announced the winners of the 2023 Best Squad Competition during a ceremony June 9 at Marshall Auditorium, Fort Moore.
Staff Sgt. Cory Graf, 198th Infantry Brigade, led his squad to win the Best Squad of the Year award and took top honors as the Noncommissioned Officer of the Year. The members of his squad included Sgt. James Fernicola, Cpl. Caleb Roy, Spc. Kirill Potapenko and Spc. Jared Thomas. Spc. Andrew Bell with Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade won Soldier of the Year.
“What I am most proud of is you chose to compete,” Maj. Gen. Curtis A. Buzzard, commanding general of the MCoE and Fort Moore, told all the competitors. “You chose to challenge yourself in a way different than anybody else out there and I am proud of you for doing that.”
Soldiers competed in a grueling, week-long competition that tested their physical and mental strength, including a range of common Soldiers’ tasks such as land navigation, obstacle course, marksmanship, casualty evaluation, skills lanes, ruck marching, written exams, and the Army Combat Fitness Test.
Graf, an Indirect Fire Infantryman from Benson, Arizona, credits the Army’s Warrior Ethos for helping his squad overcome the challenges of the competition.
“We never quit, and (we) never leave anybody behind,” Graf said. “That was our one thing – to never leave a man behind.”
Bell, an Infantryman from Kentucky, echoed the Warrior Ethos, aiding his squad in overcoming challenges during the competition.
“We focused on a combination of discipline, physical fitness, and working as a squad,” Bell said. Squad members, he added, “Focus in on the man beside you, not just yourself.”
The winners will move on to the next phase of the Army-wide competition at the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command’s Best Squad Competition later this year.