By Mr Douglas Demaio (Army Medicine)April 23, 2012
VILSECK, Germany -- Four officers tested their Soldier skills, knowledge and physical abilities to see who among them would become Europe Regional Medical Command's best junior officer here April 16 - 20.
Day and night land navigation, physical challenges, weapons proficiency and many other events measured the competitors' leadership aptitude.
"It was a great experience," said 1st Lt. Aaron Olsen, who won the competition. "It hasn't been a joke; it is definitely physically demanding."
The officers started the competition with an Army Physical Fitness Assessment. The APFA was followed by a 4-km march and the competitors dropped their rucksacks and immediately transitioning into a stress fire test with 9 mm pistols.
Having the competitors prove their marksmanship abilities while tired was by design, said Sgt. 1st Class Juan Olivarez, who was the Officer in Charge of the weapons range and is the as the Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge of Clinical Operations for Bavaria Medical Department Activity.
"It was a gut check," Olsen said, who is a nurse at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. "The stress fire was really stressful. Everything didn't work out the way I wanted it to; my glasses were fogging up; I couldn't keep my pistol steady. Everybody is yelling and you're on a time basis."
The physical demands on the competitors did not lessen through the rest of the competition, according to one competitor.
"There is not a lot of down time," said 1st Lt. Brain J. Keller, a competitor who works in the intensive care unit at LRMC.
Much of what the Medical Command officers did throughout the week was rare, Keller said.
Medical Command Soldiers have an everyday real world mission and prepping for something like the ERMC Best Junior Officer Competition is a challenge, said Staff Sgt. Charles Bailey, who is the NCOIC of the physical, medicine and rehabilitation clinic at LRMC.
"The opportunities for training are fairly limited for those Soldiers because they are doing their job every single day," Bailey said, who was the combatives lane OIC. "They don't have that training environment. For those who are really prepared, it will stick out and for those who are not it will stick out. Preparation and training will shine in the end."
The competitors agreed with Bailey's view.
"What I am actually doing 90 percent of my time is taking care of our horribly wounded boys and girls from downrange," Keller said, referring to his job as an intensive care nurse.
Olsen had a similar outlook.
"Because we work in a hospital every day, we don't get to experience a lot of this," Olsen said, referring to the opportunity the competition gave the junior officers. "We don't get to do a lot of that and this gets us back to our real Soldier skills."
The competition allowed the Soldiers to understand their strengths and weaknesses better.
"The warrior tasks were a great lane because it exposed weaknesses that I personally had so I can train up for the next competition," Keller said.
Three other Soldiers who participated in the competition did just that.
Junior officer 2nd Lt. Laura Amschler joined the officers the entire week and used the competition as an opportunity to train for the U.S. Army Europe Best Officer Competition this summer. Two NCOs also joined Amschler is training up for a competition.
"We ran through almost everything they are going through," said Sgt. William Travis, who will represent ERMC along with Sgt. Christopher Dettor at the Medical Command Best Warrior Competition in the beginning of June. "It has been a very tough competition. It lets us know ahead of time what we need to be prepping for in the coming weeks.
"All around, we have identified that we have a strong skill set to start with. In the next six week, we need to sharpen and hone everything down to a fine point to get ready."
Travis, who works at the Schweinfurt Health Clinic, and Dettor, who works at the Hohenfels Health Clinic, competed in the ERMC Best Warrior Competition and brought some experience the junior officers could use as the group progressed through the competition.
"I'm rooting for them," Olsen said. "Learning from them has been extremely beneficial. It has been very helpful learning from their experiences."