MANNHEIM, Germany - General George S. Patton once wrote in 1933, "Wars may be fought with weapons, but they are won by men. It is the spirit of men who follow and of the man who leads that gains the victory. "
In the almost 80 years since that statement, it rings as true today as it did then. Advances in technology may change the way we fight, but it is still the Soldiers and leaders of our Army who are winning battles every day.
As a testament to Patton's observation and encompassing the boldest of spirits, the best of the best among the Soldiers and noncommissioned officers in the 18th Military Police Brigade, 21st Theater Sustainment Command, showed up May 1-3 in Baumholder, Germany, to battle for the title of Warrior and Warrior Leader of the Year.
Up and down the hills of Baumholder, Soldiers pushed through the Army Physical Fitness Test, day and night land navigation, the new Army Physical Readiness Test, a 6-event obstacle course, a combatives tournament, situational training exercise (STX) lanes, day and night weapons assembly, weapons qualifications, a reflexive firing range and a road march.
While each Soldier was motivated by something different in their quest for the title, the one common denominator they all shared was their fortitude. Throughout the three-day competition they never gave up or quit while being pushed physically and mentally.
"It definitely brings you back to the roots of the Army and what the Army is all about," said Sgt. 1st Class Brian Presley, a competitor and the operations NCO for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 18th MP Brigade. "I think it really gets to the core of the Warrior Ethos and the Soldier's Creed."
Despite the fact that the Soldiers were all essentially competing against one another, there was an air of teamwork that could be felt throughout the competition. They pushed one another as hard as they pushed themselves.
"I'm a very competitive person and no matter what I do, I strive to be the best," said competitor Spc. Michael Perez-Arce, an MP with the 615th MP Company.
That competitiveness did not stop Perez-Arce from cheering on fellow Soldiers during combatives or urging them on during the obstacle course.
Sgt. Jason Murray, a competitor and a squad leader from the 92d MP Co. said the competitors ended their three days in Baumholder as friends and a very tight-knit group.
The Soldiers bonded through the blisters and the backaches. While outfitted in combat gear and carrying a full rucksack everywhere they went, Soldiers were brought back to the basics of Army training to see what they knew and how much they could handle.
Weeks of training went into preparing these Soldiers for the competition. Two hour PT sessions twice a day, ruck marches, mock boards and daily common task training account for only a portion of the hours of preparation it took to get these Soldiers to this level.
While being named the best was the ultimate goal, every Soldier left the competition knowing that they'd given their best. They epitomized the spirit that Patton spoke of all those years ago.
"They had the right mindset and they were motivated and that was great to see," said Sgt. 1st Class Clifford Price, the NCO in charge of the competition.
Ultimately, both winners of the competition were from the aptly named 709th MP "Warrior" Battalion. Earning the title of Warrior Leader of the Year was Sgt. James Byrnes, a team leader with the 615th MP Co. The Warrior of the Year winner was Spc. Michael Perez-Arce, also with the 615th MP Co.
As he continues on to the next level, Byrnes commented on what motivates him.
"Representing my unit, everyone's counting on me to continue making it through and they're pushing for me. So I find it's more like I'm trying to win it for my Soldiers and my company than for myself."
Byrnes and Perez-Arce now qualify to compete in the 21st Theater Sustainment Command's Warrior and Warrior Leader of the Year event.