By T. Anthony BellSeptember 28, 2011
FORT LEE, Va., Sept. 28, 2011 -- The annual competition that showcases the skills, personal strength and commitment of the U.S. Army Soldier will make its 10th start here next week.
The 2011 Department of the Army Noncommissioned Officer and Soldier of the Year Best Warrior Competition, commonly known as "Best Warrior," will commence Sunday. It will feature five days of field, classroom and boardroom challenges to determine who achieves distinction as the Army's standout warriors.
Twenty-six junior-enlisted troops and NCOs from Army commands around the world are slated to compete in the only major Army-wide event open to Soldiers of all military occupational specialties. Events include weapons qualification, a board appearance, urban orienteering and several of the Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills that are key to survival in combat.
Fort Lee, which has hosted Best Warrior longer than any other installation, traditionally launches itself into event planning nearly a year in advance, putting to use a large infrastructure of people, equipment and facilities that are essential to a seamless operation. Command Sgt. Maj. Daniel Reid is commandant of the Logistics NCO Academy, or NCOA. A key figure in the planning and execution of the event, he said preparation is the biggest factor.
"Best Warrior is a long process," he said. "When the event ends, you almost immediately start to plan for the coming year. You're planning throughout the year to provide the warriors with the best product possible. It is very labor intensive yet very rewarding."
The Sergeant Major of the Army, currently Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III, oversees Best Warrior. Fort Lee's Combined Arms Support Command, or CASCOM, has operational responsibility. First Sgt. LaDerek Green, the operations sergeant major for the event, said Best Warrior uses the lessons learned from previous competitions, current operational doctrine and the SMA's guidance to build future Best Warrior events.
"We try to leverage all the lessons learned from all the training centers such as the Joint Multinational Readiness Center and National Training Center," he said. "We also leverage the subject matter experts within the CASCOM, who have been deployed all over the world, to make this a relevant event, one in which the contestants can go back to their posts, camps and stations and impact training."
In order to accomplish that goal, hundreds of Fort Lee Soldiers and civilians dedicate much time and effort to ensure Best Warrior runs as intended. Law enforcement, food service, range and medical personnel and observers, controllers, evaluators and role players are just a few of those needed to support the competition. The NCOA alone has a few dozen Soldiers who have worked the event throughout the year.
"I have approximately 30-40 noncommissioned officers who are dedicated to supporting our portion of the event," said Reid, noting his responsibility for seven of the testing areas.
Despite Best Warrior's logistical requirements, Fort Lee is faced with the prospect of executing its normal missions without disruption. The Home of Sustainment features four schools and trains a significant percentage of all Soldiers in the Army. Green said it is a challenge to ensure the schools and training missions are not impacted.
"Much planning and coordination are required so that we don't affect the training of initial entry Soldiers as well as those noncommissioned officers enrolled in the Logistics NCO Academy," said Green. "The only way to do that is to sit down with directors, branch chiefs and senior Soldiers and take a closer look at the curriculum requirements and adjust times throughout the year so that the impact (during Best Warrior) is minimal."
Aside from the planning requirements, Best Warrior is somewhat a passionate endeavor for the NCOs involved in supporting it. Reid said it is a godsend that he and his staff have been afforded the opportunity to work with the event.
"Best Warrior is an extension of the phrase 'No one is more professional than I,'" said Reid. "These Soldiers are the best of the best. It is a great honor to participate and facilitate the events."
Green shared a similar sentiment.
"Personally, I feel blessed that I've had the opportunity to be a part of a competition at this level and have the opportunity to affect Soldiers across the Army," he said. "I don't think many noncommissioned officers at any level could say throughout their careers that they had such an opportunity. I'm humbled and honored to have the opportunity to serve Soldiers across the Army."
Green said the passion and dedication of those who have worked on the event during the course of the year will show. He was not at liberty to reveal details about the testing situations but said this year's Best Warrior is a reflection of the leadership traits required on the battlefield, and the event will challenge Soldiers to that end.
"The way ahead in the Army is that Soldiers need to think critically, communicate effectively and dialogue with subordinates in a manner that motivates them to accomplish the mission," he said. "This competition not only tests a Soldier's ability to operate as an individual but also as a part of a team."
The competitive portion of Best Warrior concludes Oct. 7 with the "Mystery Event," one that is not revealed to contestants until a few minutes prior to the start. In the past, the "mystery" has included tasks such as breaking down weapons in darkness and a combatives tournament.
The Army's Best Warriors will be announced Oct. 10 at the Association of the U.S. Army 2011 Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington, D.C.