JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. -- Two Soldiers from First Army’s left coast division emerged as winners of the Fort Gillem, Ga. " based command’s annual Best Warrior Competition, held May 22-26 at Joint Base McGuire - Dix - Lakehurst, N.J.

Staff Sgt. Francisco A. Delgado and Spc. Darren R. Brons took the top honors in the competition, which was hosted by Division East’s 72nd Field Artillery Brigade, headquartered at the Joint Base. The duo will represent First Army at the Forces Command BWC, to be held in July at Fort Hood, Texas.

“It’s exciting … But I’ve got a lot more work to do now,” said Brons, a Reservist and wheeled vehicle mechanic assigned to the 402nd Field Artillery Brigade.

Brons, who hails from Denver, Colo., won competitions at the battalion, brigade, and division levels before this one, albeit unexpectedly. “There was a lot of stuff I hadn’t practiced in a while, so I was pretty rough around the edges,” he said with a grin.

Staff Sgt. Cesar E. Gomez, Brons’ sponsor for the 1A competition, realized early on that the young troop possessed a key quality that would ensure his success.

“His confidence! He doesn’t quit, and I know that whatever he does, he puts 100 percent into it,” said Gomez.

First Army’s competition tested the four competitors’ skills in a number of tasks, including day and night land navigation courses, warrior drills, and field firing of light, medium and heavy machine guns. There was also a combatives tournament " one of three mystery events sprung on the group.

“The intent of the Modern Army Combatives Program is to train today’s warriors to be able to close with the enemy in combat and not have fear,” said Sgt. 1st Class Michael Cabrera, who officiated the bouts between contenders at the 1A competition.

“The greatest benefit is that it builds their confidence,” the Bronx, N.Y., native said of tournaments like these. “In the past seven or eight years, the combatives program has gotten pretty large, and more Soldiers are developing that warrior spirit that they need to close the gap with the enemy in combat " especially close quarters combat, which many of our Soldiers are encountering today.”

Physical fitness was weighted heavily during the BWC, with a sizeable number of points being awarded for excellence during an Army Physical Fitness Test, a 6.4-mile foot march, and a grueling obstacle course. None of these were any match for Delgado, who exceeded the maximum number of points for each event during the APFT and boasted the fastest times for the other endurance-oriented events.

“I always try to stay in shape. That was a big factor--what separated me from the other guys,” he said of both the 1A and Division West competitions.

Delgado explained that he dedicated himself to physical fitness after overcoming a bout with alcoholism several years ago. “I picked up a hobby … Instead of coming home every day after work and drinking, I picked up the weights,” said Delgado, an indirect fire infantryman currently serving as an observer controller/trainer for the 191st Infantry Brigade at Fort Lewis, Wash.
Delgado emphasized that to be successful at a contest like this, Soldiers need to dig deep despite how difficult it may seem.
“Have the discipline to really study hard and focus …You’re either gonna hurt from being disciplined, or hurt from regret,” he said.

That will to succeed sets Soldiers who compete in and win challenges like these apart from others, according to Command Sgt. Maj. Jesse Andrews, the top enlisted Soldier at 1A. Andrews has presided over a variety of boards during his 30-plus year career.

“They aren’t satisfied with just going to work every day and doing their job; they aren’t satisfied with scoring 300 on the PT test or firing expert with their individual weapon; they’re looking for something else to feed into that tenacity,” he explained.

Brons offered one solid piece of advice for Soldiers competing next year.

“Come motivated. Come prepared. Do your homework.”