By T. Anthony BellApril 14, 2011
FORT LEE, Va. (April 14, 2011) -- When he sent Sgt. Don Drivas to the Ultimate Warrior Competition, 1st Sgt. LaDerek Green knew it would make him a better Soldier and leader, and he hoped it might steer him down a career-changing path.
"It ultimately shapes the rest of your military career and your perspective on leadership," said Green of the event held April 4-6. "That's what I wanted him to get out of this competition."
Fortunately, he got that and more.
Drivas, a Soldier for nine years, acquired the full training value from Ultimate Warrior just as his first sergeant had hoped but also walked away victorious. The 28-year-old Detroit native finished better than 16 other Soldiers who represented various elements under the Combined Arms Support Command in an event that showcased their Soldier skills.
"I amazed myself," he said after an informal awards ceremony held at the Combatives Shelter April 6. "Honestly, I'm honored, and it was a true testament of my abilities. I surprised myself."
Ultimate Warrior brought forth winners of various CASCOM competitions to determine the Soldier who would best represent the organization during subsequent U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command events later this year. The NCO and Soldier of the Year winners at the TRADOC level advance to the overall Department of the Army Best Warrior Competition in the fall.
Drivas, assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, CASCOM, was entered as an NCO of the Year contestant. Other winners in the competition were Spc. Derek Kesner, Soldier of the Year; Sgt. 1st Class Brenda Andrade, platoon sergeant of the year; Sgt. 1st Class Joshua Schillereff, career counselor of the year; Staff Sgt. Julian Walk, retention NCO of the year; and Sgt. 1st Class Timothy Fox, NCO instructor of the year.
Maj. Gen. James L. Hodge and Command Sgt. Maj. C.C. Jenkins, CASCOM commanding general and command sergeant major, respectively, were on hand to present the awards, which followed a grueling combatives tourney. Hodge, a former West Point football player, seemed to delight in the courage and dedication shown by Soldiers.
"I love the competitiveness, particularly on the heels of the NCAA tournament and March Madness," he said, noting the all-or-nothing spirit of the event. "I absolutely love that tournament and as I watched those teams compete, I saw the same qualities in our great Soldiers."
Ultimate Warrior began the afternoon of April 4 with a weapons familiarization session. The next day included the Army Physical Fitness Test, formal board appearance and written examination. An Urban Warfare and Orienteering Course capped the day's events.
Soldiers moved to the ranges on April 6. There, they qualified with their weapons and used the Engagement Skills Trainer 2000 simulator. They later performed tasks required to evaluate casualties and returned to the ranges for the "mystery event," one in which contestants have no advanced knowledge. This year's event was even more of a mystery.
"We had to break down (and re-assemble) various weapons without seeing them," said Fox, who is assigned to the 143rd Ordnance Battalion, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md. "It was tough and frustrating as well."
The Mystery Event was definitely a mental exercise, and the same could be said about the double-elimination combatives tourney at the end of the event. Physical attributes like strength, balance and quickness were on abundant display in the competition, yet it required contestants to think on their feet.
The Ordnance School's Staff Sgt. Melvin Hunter won the tournament with a forced tap-out of a taller Sgt. 1st Class Timothy Vogt of the Quartermaster School. Each combatant had at least three matches prior to the final.
Jenkins, who sat alongside his boss to watch the matches, said the competition was a success, and the effort Soldiers put into it deserves more than a few accolades.
"They did an outstanding job," said the post's top sergeant major, who presides over the group that will put together the DA Best Warrior Competition later this year at Fort Lee. "They came with positive attitudes and didn't let anything distract them from achieving their goals. They gave us 150 percent, and that's all we asked for."
That's what Drivas gave. He said that when he told his family members about his entry into the competition, they encouraged him to do his best.
"That's what I wanted to do," he said. "I wanted to make my family proud, all the people who support me proud and make myself better."
That's what Green wanted.
"This was an opportunity to change his career path," said Green, "and not many get the chance to do that. Win, lose or draw, he's a better noncommissioned officer. I can guarantee that."