By Sgt. Cody Harding, TF Danger Public AffairsJune 26, 2010
COS ECHO, Iraq - The 1st Infantry Division holds a Soldier of the Quarter Competition every three months to determine the best Soldiers and noncommissioned officers in United States Division - South. The Soldiers compete in several events, both physical and technical, to prove themselves the best in their field.
The 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, based on Contingency Operating Site Echo, Iraq, decided to change the formula for the competition this quarter by inviting Soldiers from the 8th Iraqi Army Division to compete with the U.S. forces.
Sgt 1st Class Ali Maji, a member of the Baghdad-based 8th I.A. Div. said that the competition brings a boost of morale to the troops.
"I found it very good, not just for me but for all the soldiers that took part throughout the 8th Division," Ali said.
The competitors started the day at 4:30 am with an inspection of their equipment before loading their rucksacks and heading towards the physical training area. For this event, the soldiers and NCOs faced an unconventional PT challenge, including 24-inch box jumps, pull ups, stair climbs with weights and a 180-pound litter drag.
Pfc. Xavier Guerrero, a Soldier with Security Company, Division Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 1st Inf. Div. and a Seguin, Texas, native, said that he had to train himself to prepare for the events.
"I'm not the biggest guy, so I had to train harder with weights, with whatever I could do," Guerrero said. "I'm only 135 (pounds) and the rucksack was 140. I had to pick that up and get over it. I think that was my biggest challenge, but it feels great. I did it, and I'm here."
Competitors then had to orient themselves with a map of the base, finding specific points around the COS. At each point was a station where Soldiers were tested on weapons familiarity, including the AK-47 and the M2 .50 caliber machine gun. Iraqi soldiers were also required to know about the weapons, placing them on an even level with the U.S. Soldiers.
The last point led them to the range, where the competitors were tested on their marksmanship from standing and kneeling positions, off-handed shooting and pistol accuracy. The range was followed by a shoot house, where competitors breached a door using a shotgun before eliminating targets inside.
After a short rest, the next event tested the Soldiers and NCOs in responding to a medical emergency, immediately followed by a combatives tournament broken down to Soldier, NCO and Iraqi Army brackets.
Staff Sgt. Joe Vasquez, a senior combatives instructor with the 1st Bn, 15th Inf. Regt., said that working with the Iraqi and U.S. Soldiers is always a good experience.
"At first there was a lot of doubt as to whether they'd be able to learn and comprehend it, then teach it," said Vasquez, a Los Angeles native. "The language barrier was huge. But we were all proved different. They learned it just as well and just as fast as the American Soldiers."
The Soldiers and NCOs ended the day with a knowledge board in front of the different sergeants major from around USD-S, where they answered questions about all topics of military life, from Soldier care to weapons knowledge.
Sgt. Patrick Baray, a San Antonio resident, with Signal Co., DHHB, 1st Inf. Div., is using the competition to prepare for his future in the Army.
"This shows me everything I need to know with all the different weapons and combatives." Baray said. "I can get with people that have more levels, get more techniques down."
At the end of the day, the two competitors from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Spc. Kyle Ouimet and Staff Sgt. Timothy Briggs took home the title of Soldier and NCO of the Quarter. The winners received a four-day pass to Qatar among other recognitions.