CONTINGENTCY OPERATION BASE SPEICHER, Iraq - Forty 3rd Sustainment Brigade, 103rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) Soldiers competed in the Provider Challenge Feb. 19 at Contingency Operating Base Speicher, Iraq.

The day-long competition pitted eight teams from the brigade's four different battalions against each other in a competition comprised of seven events designed to test Soldiers' skills, abilities, physical toughness and mental endurance.

"This competition will separate the men from the boys, and the women from the girls," said 3rd Sustainment Brigade Command Sgt. Maj. Clifton Johnson, a native of Lima, Ohio, and creator of the challenge, to the competitors before the competition began. "If you came to Speicher thinking you were bad, (the competition) is going to do one of two things for you: It's going to tell you that you aren't bad, or validate that you are, indeed, bad."

He continued by saying that the brigade has held a competition such as the Provider Challenge every time it has deployed.

The challenge began at dawn with a push-up contest. Each team took turns doing as many push-ups as possible within five minutes. The 13th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion's Bravo Team recorded 671 push-ups, winning the event.

The teams then moved to a litter carry, where each team carried one of their team members on a medical litter 400 meters and over a small obstacle, competing for the best time. The winning time was 1 minute, 36 seconds by 13th CSSB's Bravo Team.

A 5-mile ruck march came directly after, where each team carried a 35-lb. ruck sack. The 13th CSSB's Bravo Team again dominated with a time of 1 hour, 12 minutes, 46 seconds.

"The ruck march was the hardest event," said Sgt. Lawrence Lee, Jr., supply sergeant for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Sust. Bde., and a native of Pensacola, Fla. "Everyone on the team was at different levels of endurance and each member had to finish together, so regardless of the individual's time, they had to wait for the rest of their team."

His teammate, Staff Sgt. Hilaria Taylor, noncommissioned officer-in-charge of supply for HHC, STB, 3rd Sust. Bde., and a native of Los Angeles, agreed.

"It was painful and the longest five miles I ever walked, but at the same time it was fun because we keep pushing each other and we came in as a team," she said.

The ruck march ended at the weapon's range, where two of the seven events took place. First, each team was timed and graded on the disassembly and reassembly of the M16 rifle and the M249 machine gun. They were then graded on a weapon's qualification.

The teams later swapped out their boots for running shoes for the 2-mile run. Like the ruck march, they were required to start and finish the race together. This time, the 394th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion's Alpha Team placed first with a time of 18 minutes, 36 seconds.

The final event of the competition was a tire exchange for the Humvee. Each team's five contestants worked together to remove a tire from the vehicle and replace it with a spare. The best time came from the 394th CSSB's Bravo Team with 5 minutes, 8 seconds.

In the end, only one team could walk away with first place, and that team was 13th CSSB's Bravo Team.

"We came into the competition with the mindset that we were going to come in first," said Spc. Courtney Pollard, standard army ammunition system modernized noncommissioned officer for the 8th Ordnance Company, 13th CSSB, and a native of Gadsden, Ala. "There was no point, after all we've done for a month and a half, for it all to go to waste. We had to leave with something."

Coming in third place was the 13th CSSB's Charlie Team, with the 394th CSSB's Alpha Team receiving second.

"This was a great competition, and I am proud of each and every one of you," Command Sgt. Maj. Johnson said to the competitors after all the events were complete. "Competition is good. You will be in competition all of your lives. You will compete for awards, you will compete for promotions, you will compete for a lot of things for the rest of your lives. So we love competition."

During the final ceremony, Brig. Gen. Mark Corson, commanding general for the 103rd ESC, and a native of Maryville, Mo., said he was pleased with the way the competition turned out and that he was proud of all the hard work from each of the Soldiers who participated.

"I was really happy to see you have this opportunity," he said. "It's great to see Soldiers getting out and having some fun. It's important to go and have some fun, but more importantly, it was good to see everyone going out there practicing and demonstrating Soldier skills. Those technical and tactical skills that are necessary for us to maneuver and operate in an operational environment, sustain the force and do what we do.