With his uncle and grandfather serving in the 82nd Airborne Division, another uncle in the Marine Corps, and father also serving as a doctor in the Navy. Elihu Wagner was influenced to join the U.S. military.
While studying biology at Palomar College the COVID-19 pandemic shut down his college classes. Needing something to do, he decided to join the Army Reserve as an operating room specialist (68D) in 2021. He currently serves with the 1872nd Medical Detachment in Garden Grove, Calif.
U.S. Army Reserve Spc. Elihu Wagner, from San Diego, Calif., chose to be a 68D so he could have skills that would transfer to a civilian career.
On his civilian side, Wagner enjoys working as a surgical technician in the operating room at the United Surgery Center in southern California.
“It's not like a hospital, it's much more of a family-run business,” said Wagner.
During a conversation with his detachment sergeant, he was asked if he wanted to go and shoot a lot of rounds and do some cool stuff.
“Sure, why not? I'll take a little mini vacation and go do some Army stuff,” said Wagner.
With a conversation with his detachment sergeant, he decided to compete at the 807th Medical Command (Deployment Support) Best Warrior Competition representing the 176th Medical Brigade.
One of the main reasons he decided to compete in this year's Best Warrior Competition is to prove that as a reserve Soldier, he has what it takes to complete the basic Army task just like active duty, and is a competitive person.
The Best Warrior Competition consists of many events conducted over about a week's time span. These events test the competitors' skills in the basic Army warrior tasks, physical fitness, and mentality. The events include M4 and M17 weapons qualification, the Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT), ruck march, a written exam, and an appearance board.
“I got to the check-in booth and it was a Command Sergeant Major checking me in and I was like that's pretty weird. That is not normal that a Command Sergeant Major is looking through our papers…, and then I think that's when I first realized that I had got into something bigger than I had initially thought,” said Wagner.
He would win the 807th MC(DS) competition and be the 807th MC(DS) Soldier of the Year and would attend the U.S. Army Reserve Best Warrior Competition representing the 807th MC(DS) as the junior enlisted soldier.
After winning Wagner felt he needed to train on improving his physical fitness prior to attending the U.S. Army Reserve competition. He worked on running to improve his cardiovascular system and reduce his run time. He also did a lot of calisthenics.
“Although I was preparing for the ACFT, they threw me for a loop by not even having an ACFT…. Instead, they had us do the Expert Infantry Badge PT test,” said Wagner.
The Expert Infantry Badge Physical test consists of a mile run, hand release push-ups, 100-meter sprint, lift 16 sandbags onto a 66” tall platform, 50-meter farmers carry with two 40-pound water cans or kettlebells, 25-meter low crawl, 25-meter three-five second rush and ends with another mile run. All the events are conducted in the Army Combat Uniform, body armor, and helmet.
The events that Wagner enjoyed the most were the helocasting and the squad cruiser weapons. Helocasting is where soldiers jump out of a helicopter into water and the cruiser weapon event is where they put as many rounds downrange and try to knock down as many targets as possible with one squad member loading and changing barrels.
The training paid off with him winning the Soldier of the Year in the U.S. Army Reserve competition, reducing his run time, and also improving his ruck march time by 30 minutes.
“Nobody knows what a surgical technician is. So for me to show up and win was pretty cool when the other MOSes are more combat arms related. For the medical guy to come in and take the cake was fun for sure,” said Wagner.
Since winning, Wagner has been recruited to go to the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York and plans to attend in 2024. He still hasn’t decided on what to major in. He has also been offered a slot to attend Air Assault training in November 2023.
Wagner was promoted to sergeant on Oct. 4, 2023.