By Spc. Brian J. Smith Dutton (FORSCOM)February 23, 2013
KHOWST PROVINCE, Afghanistan (Feb. 15, 2013) -- The sun begins to rise on the mountains of Khowst province as Soldiers assigned to different units within 3rd Brigade Combat Team "Rakkasans," 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), ready their gear and each other while being briefed on the intense upcoming events for the day.
Nineteen Soldiers competed in the Brigade non-commissioned officer and Soldier of the quarter competition on Forward Operating Base Salerno, Afghanistan, Feb. 15.
Their task was to travel a fivemile loop, dressed in all of their battle equipment, stopping at different points on the trail to do different stations that would test their basic Soldiering skills while being in a deployed environment.
"This competition was a great way to bring espri de corps among the troops," said 1st Sgt. David J. Fiske, senior non-commissioned officer for Headquarters and Headquarter Company, 3 BCT. "We chose the best events for a combat environment."
In order to have the opportunity to compete in the competition, Soldiers had to first win in the Soldier of the month competition at the battalion level before moving forward to compete at the brigade level.
"Soldiers don't just get picked for these events," said Fiske. "These Soldiers should be the best all around Soldier-athlete in their battalion formations."
With the first of five stations of the competition being first aid, the Soldiers were tasked with treating a severe leg wound on a simulated casualty.
"This competition was very combat oriented," said Staff Sgt. Timothy Reinker, an infantry squad leader assigned to Company A, 1st Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment. "Everything we did was what you do or could face on a daily basis, especially first aid."
The Soldiers had to use whatever they had in their first aid pouches, from tourniquets to bandages, to stop the bleeding and cover the wound.
"The first aid portion was really oriented towards being deployed," said Spc. Dustin Turner, an infantryman assigned to Troop C, 1st Squadron, 33rd Cavalry Regiment. "You could deal with a wound like that from a gunshot or road side bomb."
After completing first aid a mile and a half down the road, the Soldiers were set for the next challenge in the competition, conducting pre-combat inspections on Soldiers.
"The competitors were tasked with conducting PCI's which means they have to make sure a Soldier is within standards," said Fiske. "Meaning they have to make sure the Soldier has water, ammunition, special equipment or that they are in the proper uniform for the mission."
Different missions call for different equipment, different amounts of food and water, as well as different uniforms depending on the weather in the area of operation. It is up to those in leadership positions to go through and check to make sure the standards and requirements are met.
"Every Soldier must complete the checks before missions," said Turner. "It's literally done every time just before we go out on mission."
When finished with completing the PCI task, competitors travelled another mile to the range, but before Soldiers could shoot, there was an obstacle course.
Large mounds of dirt, enormous holes in the ground, barbed wire and large cement walls stand between the competitors and the range, as well as the finish line.
"The obstacle course was made to give the Soldiers a little more stress before they shoot," said Fiske. "We had to add a little more stress to make it a little more challenging."
With five different obstacles to complete, ranging from crawling on their stomachs under barbed wire, using rope to pull themselves up and over large dirt mounds, and climbing over large cement walls, it was a challenge made to test the Soldiers strength and endurance.
"That obstacle course was a smoker," said Reinker. "Low crawling under the barbed wire was intense."
After pushing themselves physically, the competitor's next event was to shoot the Beretta M9 pistol, the M4 carbine rifle and the M240B light machine gun in order to test their combat effectiveness.
"I really enjoyed shooting all the different weapons," said Turner. "Needless to say, shooting is directly related to being deployed."
"I enjoyed the range most of all," said Reinker. "I always enjoy shooting the pistol, rifle and machine gun."
Once their shooting is complete, the Soldiers moved down the road to a communication station to test their ability to properly load radios to standard as well as perform a proper radio check to ensure its working order.
"The competitors were faced with loading different types of radios," said Fiske. "They also had to get checks in order to complete this station."
"Once complete with that task," Fisk continued, "they had to push out a little more endurance to get through very challenging waddie systems before the final stretch of the finish line."
At the end of the competition, the competitors, who e pushed themselves to the limit to beat each other's time, stood around joking and telling stories of the comical events of themselves from the competition.
"I thought it was awesome," said Reinker. "I had lots of fun. I'm smoked, but I had lots of fun."
Fiske smiles happily as he watches over the group of Soldiers.
"This was such a good turn-out," he said. "All of it depends on how involved you are, and with things like this, the sky's the limit."
All the Soldiers laughed and congratulated each other on their accomplishments as if they had been working as a team throughout the entire competition.
"The competition built good camaraderie between the Soldiers," said Turner. "Even though it was an individual competition, everyone was still very supportive of one another."
"And really that's what being a Soldier is about," said Turner.
"Everybody is pretty proud of themselves to have completed this competition," said Reinker. "This was an excellent way to have friendly competition between Soldiers as well as pushing ourselves physically to do things we might not have known we could."
Reinker went on to win the NCO portion of the competition.
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