Sept. 23, 2010
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. -- True grit became a lasting and crucial theme for participating teams in the14th annual Military Police Warfighter competition; a four-day event at Fort Leonard Wood, Sept. 13-17, presenting numerous warrior tasks, battle drills and endurance tests to participating three-man teams from installations worldwide.
Soldiers endured 11 grueling challenges throughout a 72-hour timeframe, testing them physically and mentally in their technical and tactical abilities.
"This competition has given a lot of young Soldiers the chance to come really show their stuff. They are the best of their organization. There are no losers here, but there will only be one Warfighter winning team," said Brig. Gen. David Phillips, U.S. Army Military Police School commandant.
That winning team was Team 2 from the 385th Military Police Battalion out of Fort Stewart, Ga., consisting of teammates Staff Sgt. Adam Norton, Spc. Gene Thompson, and Spc. Joseph Kajer.
Second place went to Sgt. Justin Jordan, Spc. Aaron Garlock, and Spc. Joseph Maza of Team 1 with the 504th Military Police Battalion from Fort Lewis, Wash.
Third place was rewarded to Team 16, consisting of Sgt. Vincint Jarman, Spc. Spencer Grantham and Spc. Brandon Walker of the 508th Military Police Battalion also from Fort Lewis.
Of the 36 teams that came to compete, 22 finished as a team, eight finished one-man short and five had to drop out of competition.
"It's a test on endurance, physically and mentally, so it's a huge accomplishment just to finish," said Regimental Command Sgt. Maj. Charles Kirkland, U.S. Army Military Police School.
Throughout the week, Soldiers covered 60 miles on foot, moving from one event site to the next.
Kicking off the challenges was the non-standard physical training test where Soldiers performed "flatbox push-ups, pull-ups and weighted sit-ups, followed by a six-mile run where they were forced to carry a 70-pound ammo can and then a 50-pound water can for 1.5 miles," said 1st Sgt. Corey Henderson, noncommissioned officer-in-charge of the PT test.
Day 2 presented a slew of events, beginning with the confidence course, where Soldiers maneuvered through differing strength-testing and teamwork-focused obstacles. Upon completion, they marched on to the next event, a sensitive site exploitation drill, where teams meandered the streets of a simulated Middle Eastern village, identifying elements of an area that possessed both forensic and intelligence value.
"The tactical site exploitations challenged the team's law enforcement and site exploitation backgrounds. The lane evaluated their ability to quickly collect evidence during a lull in an intense firefight. That evidence was used to ensure a detainee remains in custody and can be effectively processed through the host nation's legal system," said 1st Sgt. Joseph Willis, NCOIC.
The day's events ended with tests on warrior tasks and battle drills as
Soldiers marched from station to station embarking on numerous missions, to include weapons identification, first aid and medical evacuations.
Day 3 of competition brought weary Soldiers to Davidson Fitness Center where Soldiers displayed their fighting skills in combatives matches. Upon completion, Soldiers visited various ranges at locations across the installation to test their marksmanship abilities in both daylight and limited visibility, utilizing a wide-range of weapons while on the move and in stationary positions.
The long-awaited final day of competition began with a written exam and ended with a 15-mile endurance march, where Soldiers rucked with full gear, pain, sweat and anxiety, hoping for the sight of the anticipated finish line.
"We didn't know how long we were marching when we started. It's a scary situation, said Cpl. Christopher Vazquez, of Team 20 from Fort Meyers, Fl., who finished first with his teammates in the endurance march. "But it was so relieving to finally get all the weight off when we finished. Not only physically, but mentally a huge weight lifted," he said.
As teams crossed the finish line, it became evident that digging deep was the key to success, and that true grit wasn't an option, it was essential. And while Vazquez and his team didn't make it to the winner's circle, they took pride in having successfully completed the competition.
"It hurt ... but it was all mind over matter," he said.
(Editor's note: Emily Athens is a photojournalist assigned to the Fort Leonard Wood GUIDON.)