FORT STEWART, Ga. - Soldiers of 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team competed against one another at the platoon level from Sept. 17-21 in an effort to designate who was the best. Each platoon that competed had a full day's worth of events, starting from an air insertion early in the morning leading late into the evening. In the end, 1st Platoon, Bravo Troop, 5th Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment received the honor of being the Raider Brigade's Top Shot.

"Iraq has been very close quarters combat," said Col. Jim Crider at the award ceremony, Sept. 26. "But if we go to Afghanistan, we're going to have to be able to shoot at much longer ranges. We aren't going out there to suppress targets; we're going out there to kill things. We haven't been practicing to shoot beyond 300 meters, and what we want to do is not just qualify on the weapon and put it away, we want to have the ability to knock targets down at 500 meters. The M4 can do it, but you have to be trained how to do it."

The events covered multiple types of shooting as well as tactical movement and physical endurance. For the Soldiers, it was both a grueling and fun experience. "I feel good," said 1st Lt. Timothy Hart, Apache Troop 5/7 Cavalry, when they stopped half way through their run for the medics to assist any personnel. "Tired and sore, but extremely motivated. I can't wait to plow through and finish this thing up. The competition is good, it's definitely a smoker, but it combines a lot of the individual tasks that we work on- but rarely have the opportunity to go out to the field and execute them from start to finish."

Although they were being tested on their skills, the platoons also learned from the experience.
"It's what you take away from this," said Sgt. 1st Class Jeranado Marmo, 1st Plt. "Woodchucks," Bravo Co., 3rd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, said to his Soldiers when they finally finished. "Very few of you all have ever done something to this magnitude, or have been asked to do something on this scale. Don't take away the point that this was just terrible. You learned some things about yourself regarding how much you can endure. You learn how to shoot under more stress than most of you all have ever been in. Get past the mindset that it sucked, because we're finished now. Make sure you start thinking about how we can improve."

Although some of the platoons had relatively new Soldiers to the unit and the Army, leaders were impressed with their abilities to adapt and overcome the obstacles they faced.

"My Soldiers have done outstanding, I couldn't be more proud of them," 1st Lt. Hart said. "We are a particularly young platoon. The majority of these guys are brand new to the Army and the level they have excelled to after only being here a few months is amazing. At the end I'll tell them how proud I am of them, for the time being I'll keep cracking that whip and get them motivated and focus driven."

The event also helped train platoons to accomplish tasks at the platoon level, which is vital to operations in a deployed environment.

"I regret that we didn't have the resources or the time to have every platoon compete," Col. Crider said. "It's important that we do operations at the platoon level. When we go into harm's way there may be a few unique situations where you are operating below platoon level, but by and large we are going to operate at that level or higher. So, we need platoons that are strong and have great leadership that know how to get after it."