By Spc. Aloree M. AmodtMarch 8, 2011
FORT DOUGLAS, Utah - The 96th Sustainment Brigade invited strong-willed Army Reserve soldier Pfc. Jared Campbell to the Best Warrior competition through a series of recommendations and company-wide challenges.
"The competition has been motivating for me," said Campbell, 19. "This isn't all stuff we do every two weeks like active-duty soldiers. It's good to brush up on them every once in a while."
The Best Warrior competition challenged Campbell, a food service specialist with the 786th Quartermaster Company, in eight different categories: physical fitness, warrior tasks, a written test, a personal appearance board, reflexive weapons firing, land navigation, combatives, and a 10-mile road march.
The Army Physical Fitness Test is designed to show a soldier's physical fitness, motivation, determination and overall readiness. As part of the Best Warrior competition, soldiers were required to wear the Army Combat Uniform with tennis shoes rather than the usual physical fitness uniform. The change created a challenge in itself, since the ACU weighs more than the PFU.
"I was [also] recommended for my [physical fitness tests]." Campbell said. "I have one of the best PT scores in my company."
Campbell came into the competition facing an added challenge: bronchitis. Being sick made taking the modified Army physical fitness test a greater challenge, but Campbell pushed through and dealt with it, said his company's leadership.
"He came in sick and gave [the competition] his all. He didn't finish first on the physical fitness test or the road march, but he stuck in there and was determined," said 1st Sgt. Steven Proffit, of the 786th.
Land navigation posed another challenge for Campbell.
Competitors received five points to plot on a map, using a compass and protractor. On his own, along the rugged hills dotted with evergreens and slowly melting snow and ice, Campbell searched for each plotted point. As each point was found, Campbell recorded the numbers stamped on dog tags tied to the post, marking it.
Completing a warrior task conducted by drill sergeants of the 2nd Battalion, 414th Regiment, 95th Division, at each point added to the difficulty of the timed navigation course. Each warrior task required Campbell to answer questions and execute a scenario. In one instance, Campbell had to respond to a detainee who had hidden multiple knives on his person: in his jacket, on his hip, in his boots, and in the seam of his trousers.
Using the buddy system, Campbell had another soldier guard the detainee while Campbell he cuffed and searched the detainee for hidden weapons.
Though competing against each other, the soldiers didn't hesitate to step in to help a struggling comrade.
"I never felt like I was competing against [Campbell], especially since I am a non-commissioned officer," said Sgt. Steven Fairbanks, a wheeled vehicle mechanic with the 786th, who guided Campbell as he plotted points during the land navigation phase. "In fact, I even tried to help him a bit.
"He gave a lot of effort," Fairbanks said. "He was there giving his all the whole time."
Marching uphill through mud, snow, and ice is no easy task. Carrying 35 pounds of gear and an M-16A2 rifle for 10 miles through twists and turns, while sick and being timed, just make it worse. Campbell exuded dedication and pride after pushing through the elements and health concerns, his first sergeant said.
"He never gave up. He's a hard worker and dedicated. He always wants to do the right thing. He is what a soldier should be," Proffit said.
Campbell didn't win the title of Best Warrior, but he did get a certificate of participation and brigade coin, an honor bestowed on soldiers recognized for going above and beyond the call of duty.
Campbell celebrated his one-year anniversary in the Army Reserve while participating in the Best Warrior competition. He plans to transfer to active duty and hopes to someday receive an officer's commission.
"For the time he has been in, he is definitely headed in the right direction as a soldier," Proffit said.
Editor's note: Spc. Aloree M. Amodt is a photojournalist assigned to the 358th Public Affairs Detachment, Salt Lake City.