Two Soldiers representing MICC in best warrior competition

By Daniel P. Elkins, Mission and Installation Contracting Command Public Affairs OfficeApril 25, 2024

Two Soldiers representing MICC in best warrior competition
Staff Sgts. Jaime Davila Lara and Cory Palletti are representing the Mission and Installation Contracting Command at the Army Contracting Command Best Warrior Competition May 6-10 at Tunnel Hill, Georgia, for the chance to compete at the major command level. Davila Lara and Palletti both bested their competition at the 418th Contracting Support Brigade and 419th CSB levels, respectively, to move on to the ACC competition. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo) VIEW ORIGINAL

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas (April 25, 2024) -- Two Soldiers are representing the Mission and Installation Contracting Command in the Army Contracting Command Best Warrior Competition taking place May 6-10 at Tunnel Hill, Georgia, for the chance to compete at the major command level.

Staff Sgts. Jaime Davila Lara and Cory Palletti are both best warrior competition winners at the 418th Contracting Support Brigade and 419th CSB levels, respectively, moving on to test their skills at the ACC competition.

"Standing out among their peers, these two Soldiers have showcased their excellence at their respective brigade levels. They possess the essential skills and resilience needed to excel at the next level of competition, all while embodying the finest qualities of our command," said Command Sgt. Maj. Jason Gusman, the MICC command sergeant major. “The ACC Best Warrior Competition stretches the capabilities and prowess of our exceptional Soldiers, pushing them to their utmost limits. I’m confident our Soldiers will represent the best of the MICC.”

The two MICC Soldiers are among eight competitors representing ACC’s brigades at the Volunteer Training Site-Catoosa located in northwest Georgia.

Planners said the best warrior competition is designed to promote “esprit de corps” throughout the Army and recognize Soldiers who demonstrate commitment to the Army and embody the warrior ethos. The week-long competition consists of multiple events during which Soldiers are evaluated by ACC competition board members. Those events include the Army Combat Fitness Test, essay, formal board, day and night land navigation, obstacle course, ruck march, warrior task and battle drills, weapons qualification and one mystery event.

(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

Staff Sgt. Jaime Davila Lara

Davila Lara serves as contracting support NCO for the 902nd Contracting Battalion at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington. He initially enlisted in the Army seven years ago serving in the aircraft electrician military occupational specialty for the first five years.

“I initially joined the Army straight out of high school, because I was faced with a crossroad. Either attend college under the usage of federal student loans or join the Army in order to gain access to a multitude of benefits,” he said. “Now I serve not only for personal benefit, but because I take pride in growing and feeding the camaraderie within our ranks; all of which is a necessary to ensure unified efforts and to maintain national security and ensure homeland defense.”

His eventual search for a career allowing him “to make a bigger impact in the Army” led Davila Lara to reclassify into the Army Acquisition Corps in July 2023, having since served in various roles including team leader, squad leader and technical inspector.

“This MOS has been extremely fulfilling and has exposed me to numerous opportunities to make an impact at not only a brigade level, but division level as well,” he said.

Born in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, the 24-year-old now considers his hometown as Teague, Texas, where he graduated from Teague High School. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in Homeland Security in 2019 through the American Public University.

His is presently deployed to Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, where he serves as a business adviser to organizations throughout the acquisition process. This involves assisting organizations in defining their contract requirements, soliciting requirements to a multitude of sources, awarding contracts based on established evaluative factors, ensuring contract performance, and performing contract close out. He also serves as a contract analyst, Government Purchase Card holder and alternate unit armorer.

It is during his current deployment that he takes pride in assuring Americans rest “soundly knowing that the Army is still being a steward of the profession and actively responding to this dynamic environment in the Middle East in order to remain proactive to any emerging threat.”

Despite operating in a deployed environment, Davila Lara continues to juggle multiple tasks including daily duties, nine semester hours of college courses, study sessions for the contracting certification exam, and preparing for the ACC Best Warrior Competition.

“What motivated me to compete was the pursuit of excellence in order to represent my family and organization proudly. I saw the best warrior competition as a method to gauge myself against likeminded individuals and solidify my placement amongst my peers,” he said. “Regardless of the outcome, I look forward to using my mental agility, physical prowess and grit in the upcoming competition.”

Serving as his mentor is Sgt. 1st Class Katharine Shockley, who Davila Lara said has provided consistent and objective feedback to prevent career complacency. Shockley assisted him by holding mock boards and offering constructive criticism on ways to improve military bearing.

“This resulted in the reoccurring instances where I’m placed in unfamiliar situations, which stimulates growth. She’s also been an excellent resource that I can steadily rely on should I have any questions relating to the acquisition process,” Davila Lara said.

He believes his strength lies in essay writing after having accomplished numerous papers in the past 12 months but admits he most looks forward to land navigation since he enjoys the wilderness and being able to navigate using basic analog tools. Anticipating the physical rigors of competition, he also completed the 26.2-mile Arifjan Marathon recently.

“Should I be successful in becoming one of the Army’s best warriors, I believe I would be responsible for ensuring I maintain and exceed all the competencies and attributes that embody an excellent noncommissioned officer,” Davila Lara added. “After all, the pursuit of excellence is never definite, and there are constant changes in the environment that we operate in. Failing to acknowledge this would tarnish my inclusion as one of the Army’s best warriors.”

Davila Lara also hopes to draw on inspiration of his parents’ work ethic instilled in him at an early age.

“This has assisted me in being consistently resilient under circumstances where I lack a natural born talent due to the application of hard work and preparation,” he said.

(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

Staff Sgt. Cory Palletti

Palletti, a contract specialist with the 925th CBN at Fort Drum, New York, enlisted into the Army as a practical nursing specialist in October 2013 and remains a licensed practical nurse under the Texas Board of Nursing.

Service to the nation and a commitment to something greater than oneself is nothing new to the 40 year old. Her mother served as an Army military intelligence officer and her brother was a behavioral health technician in the Air Force. Her husband, retired Sgt. 1st Class Neil Engel, is a former Army combat medic.

Also playing a significant role in shaping her decision to enlist were the invaluable experiences and resilience along with a sense of duty, honor and commitment she found in the veterans who came before her.

“I had the honor of shadowing some spirited veterans at the Chillicothe (Veterans Affairs) Hospital during my capstone for my degree,” Palletti said. “Their stories from their time serving motivated me to join, because I wanted to honor them, my mother, other family members, and so many Americans who were and still are like those men and women I was suddenly privileged to know.”

Drawing from their firsthand experiences, she found the culture of camaraderie and loyalty fostered by veterans reinforced the core principles by which all Soldiers serve.

“These veterans are still serving and supporting their brothers and sisters in arms. It was inspiring. It reminded me this was the ‘thing’ I didn’t do when I turned 18, and it felt like it was a thing I very much needed to do,” Palletti, now a 10-year veteran, added.

She was born in Portsmouth, Ohio, but now calls nearby Oak Hill home. A graduate of Madison Jefferson High School in Norcross, Georgia, she earned her Bachelor of Health Care Administration in 2013 from The Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. She has set her sights on completing a master’s degree in public administration.

She was awarded the 51C MOS after finishing second of 36 in the Army Acquisitions Transition Course.

“For the last 20 years, I’ve only known medical between EMS and nursing. I wanted to challenge myself by learning something new,” Palletti said. “Admittedly, contracting wasn’t necessarily the path I had envisioned taking, but it’s a completely foreign skill set, and my opportunity for lifelong learning is greater here than it would have been had I stayed in the medical field.”

The NCO’s short-term goals include successfully passing the contracting back to basics exam, completing her third Norwegian Foot March, and deploying in support of contingency contracting operations. Continuing to sharpen her expertise in the acquisition career field, she also aims to attend the Army Senior Leaders Course in the coming year and to compete for promotion.

Helping guide that development as an acquisition professional is Sgt. 1st Class Kelsey LaHue.

“I’m in the infancy stages of my career; however, Sergeant First Class LaHue has always taken time out of her schedule to explain or talk through any questions I’ve had,” Palletti said.

And that includes motivating the staff sergeant to compete in the best warrior competition.

“When opportunities present themselves, especially those that nudge me out of my comfort zone, I feel compelled to try, despite my reservations,” Palletti said. She considers land navigation as one of the most challenging aspects of the competition, lightheartedly adding “I can manage to get lost with directions.”

Also helping guide and prepare Palletti for the challenge is sponsor Master Sgt. David Timmons, who has previously competed at the ACC level.

“He provided me with opportunities to train in the areas I consider myself weak,” she said. “He openly shared his tips and was candid about what did and did not work for him.”

Nevertheless, she most looks forward to the ruck march, a physical testament to a Soldier’s ability to push beyond their limits while carrying weight and gear.

“I don’t have to think -- just execute. Paradoxically, I get time to think,” Palletti said.

About the MICC

Headquartered at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas, the Mission and Installation Contracting Command consists of about 1,500 military and civilian members who are responsible for contracting goods and services in support of Soldiers as well as readying trained contracting units for the operating force and contingency environment when called upon. As part of its mission, MICC contracts are vital in feeding more than 200,000 Soldiers every day, providing many daily base operations support services at installations, facilitate training in the preparation of more than 100,000 conventional force members annually, training more than 500,000 students each year, and maintaining more than 14.4 million acres of land and 170,000 structures.