By Mr. Christopher I Bush (20th Support Command)May 29, 2012
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. -- Earning the title of "Best Warrior" at a highly-specialized unit like the 20th Support Command (CBRNE) is no easy task, but eight Soldiers from across the country accepted the challenge and competed in a multi-day competition here May 21 -- 24.
Chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and high-yield explosive Soldiers and Noncommissioned Officers from units throughout the United States converged to compete in rigorous tasks and exercises that pushed the Soldiers' mental and physical abilities to the brink. An eight-mile road march, a multi-hour urban orienteering course on the Edgewood Area of APG, a physical fitness test, weapons qualification, a written exam, warrior tasks, and a grueling oral board with senior NCOs including 20th Spt. Cmd. (CBRNE) Sgt. Maj. David Puig were among the tasks given to the competitors.
The whirlwind week of arduous competition culminated in the selection of Sgt. Michael A. Turner of the 20th Spt. Cmd. (CBRNE) Headquarters and Headquarters Company, David Nakasone of the 71st Ordnance Group (EOD) as the NCO and Soldier Best Warrior of 2012 during a ceremony at the Southside Grill on the Edgewood Area of APG.
Brig. Gen. Leslie C. Smith, 20th Spt. Cmd. (CBRNE) commander, kicked off the ceremony by reciting the Soldiers Creed to the competitors and those gathered. "That creed reminds me of what it means to be a Soldier," Smith said. "You are the people that execute our mission. There is no greater task than what Soldiers do… All of you are winners in my book."
You all should take what you have learned back with you to make the team better, Smith told the eight Soldiers.
In a week of difficult challenges, a few events stood out in the mind of one of this year's winners.
"The 'ruck march' was probably the hardest part," said Turner. "I got some heat cramps and my calves locked up; I was walking on stilts for the last mile."
During the road march, or "ruck march," portion of the Best Warrior Competition, Soldiers had to have designated items in their ruck sacks that weighed approximately 25 lbs. In addition to their pack, the Soldiers also carried other equipment and in total, the load measured around 70 lbs. An eight-mile road march in high humidity proved to be no small accomplishment for the competitors.
Some critical tools the competing Soldiers relied upon heavily throughout the competition were the mentors they brought along with them to APG. Mentors were allowed to advise Soldiers prior to events like the ruck march, but one the tasks began, however, they were no longer allowed to coach their Soldier along.
As demanding as the ruck march was physically, the oral board with senior CBRNE NCOs proved to be just as taxing mentally. The board lasted between 30 minutes to an hour, and mentors help prepare the Soldiers prior to their board as well as speak for them in front of the panel. Warrior competitors had to be ready to answer a wide variety of questions ranging from weight of a specific loaded weapon and its maximum range, to reciting the Soldier's Creed. Board members also peppered competitors with questions about how the Soldiers would react to certain scenarios.
"PT tests and ruck marches are things we do on a day-to-day basis, but we don't practice a lot on the boards," said Nakasone. "The Army North Command competition is a board and not any physical activities, so I will be getting ready for it."
Repetition and practice proved to be beneficial in relieving the stress of the oral board for one competitor. "I wasn't as nervous as I usually am. I've done so many boards to get here that I guess I'm used to it," said Sgt. Steven Applegate, a competitor from the 52nd Ordnance Group (EOD).
Turner and Nakasone will now move up to the Army North Command level of competition and, if selected, to Army Forces Command's competition.
"I will be working on how I present myself to the Army North board," Turner, who thought his strongest performance was in the land navigation and basic tasks, said. "I will try to slow myself down so I don't spit answers in rapid fire, but take my time so I can think through them properly."
The winners both agreed that one of their favorite portions of the Best Warrior Competition was the urban orienteering, or land navigation, where the eight Soldiers were given points on a map and an electronic navigation device at the Edgewood Chapel, then sent out across the installation to find all the points within approximately four hours -- imagine the most stressful "Easter Egg" hunt conceivable to get a better idea of what the challenge encompassed.
"I got to use a device that I have never used before. Where I am stationed, all we have ever used is a compass," Nakasone said.
The aim of the Best Warrior competition was to put competitors to the test in a variety of professional areas and selecting the top two was a difficult task, according to Master Sgt. J. Micah Huling, the NCOIC of the 2012 Best Warrior Competition.
"[Best Warrior] is designed to challenge the competitors both mentally and physically. We definitely hit both of those marks this year," Huling said. "We were looking for the best of the best with the overall Soldier concept in mind. Each of the competitors displayed mental and physical toughness throughout the competition and the final outcome was one of the closest I have seen."
The close finish speaks highly of the training proficiency and readiness within the 20th Spt. Cmd. (CBRNE), Huling said. "We have some great Soldiers in our ranks and that is evident by the performance of all the competitors."
Command Sgt. Maj. David Puig echoed Huling's sentiments and expressed his confidence that the 20th Spt. Cmd. (CBRNE) Soldiers would eventually move on to the FORSCOM competition.
"This was a hard-fought race with scores coming in extremely close," Puig stated in an email to the command. "A lot of hard work and dedication went into this to ensure the event was tough, fair, and equitable… Good luck to Sgt. Turner and Spc. Nakasone. You represent the best of the 20th Spt. Cmd. (CBRNE)."