108th Soldiers find camaraderie, training in competition

08/25/2018   By Maj. Michelle Lunato 98th Training Division (IET), Public Affairs Officer
 

Two Soldiers from the 108th Training Command (Initial Entry Training) competed side by side with 34 other Soldiers from commands throughout the world at the U.S. Army Reserve Command’s Best Warrior Competition in Fort Bragg, North Carolina June 10-15.

Through the week-long competition that included everything from rappelling out of a helicopter to standing before a military board, the two Soldiers found camaraderie and training to be their main takeaways.

Spc. Darren O’Dell, the 104th Training Division Soldier of the Year who also claimed the 108th Training Command (IET) SoY title, said he found the USARC-level competition to be motivating on many levels.

“It was extremely challenging, both mentally and physically,” said the 21-year-old petroleum supply specialist with Detachment 3, Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 398th Regiment, 104th Training Division. “But at the exact same time, it was equally rewarding. I learned a lot, and it was an honor to be asked to do this.”

As each Soldier in the competition was representing their command as the Soldier or Noncommissioned Officer of the Year, O’Dell said he gave it his all at every event. When it came to basic rifle marksmanship, warfighter drills and the military board, the 104th/108th Soldier of the Year said he felt pretty comfortable.

“Those things I know like the back of my hand. So I had no problem with them. I went in thinking, OK, I got this,” said O’Dell.

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U.S. Army Reserve Spc. Darren Odell, a petroleum supply specialist from Carbondale, Illinois, with Detachment 3, Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 398th Infantry Regiment, 98th Training Division (Initial Entry Training), 108th Training Command (IET), performs a low crawl on obstacle four of the Fort Bragg Air Assault School Obstacle Course. Touching the barbed wire with any part of their body during this lane results in disqualification, requiring the competitor to be returned to the beginning of the lane to try again or continue with a loss of points. Thirty-six warriors continue to vie for the title of United States Army Reserve Best Warrior during the grueling multifaceted competition that has so far included elements of physical training, weapons marksmanship and familiarization, warrior tasks and battle drills, essay writing, German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge testing and many other events. The competition began 9 June and will conclude with an awards luncheon 15 June, 2018. U.S. Army Reserve photo by Sgt. 1st Class Lisa M. Litchfield/released

Spc. Pateh Jawo, a medical laboratory specialist with 7387th Blood Detachment, and Spc. Darren Odell, a petroleum specialist with Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 398th Regiment, 104th Training Division who won the 108th Training Command Soldier of the Year, do a few clapping push-ups after their two morning events, the Ruck March and the Obstacle Course, during the 2018 U.S. Army Reserve Command’s Best Warrior Competition in Fort Bragg, North Carolina June 10-15. More than 35 Soldiers representing seven Geographic Commands and 22 Functional Commands, will spend the week competing in a variety of challenges including firing weapons, land navigation, the Army Physical Fitness Test, and various mystery events. These challenges will ultimately test their capabilities, combat-readiness, and lethality.

U.S. Army photo by Maj. Michelle Lunato/released

U.S. Army Reserve Staff Sgt. Derek Hopkins, a cavalry scout from Somerset, Kentucky, with the 2nd Battalion, 398th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 98th Training Division (Initial Entry Training), 108th Training Command (IET), waits for orders as he competes in the weapons assembly/disassembly event at the 2018 U.S. Army Reserve Best Warrior Competition at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, June 14, 2018. Today, U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers give everything they have to push past their limits and finish the last day of events in the 2018 U.S. Army Reserve Best Warrior Competition.

U.S. Army Reserve photo by Pfc. Keely Key

Staff Sgt. Derek Hopkins, a drill sergeant with the 98th Training Division who won the 108th Training Command Noncommissioned Officer of the Year, sits and laughs with fellow competitors after the Obstacle Course Event during the 2018 U.S. Army Reserve Command’s Best Warrior Competition in Fort Bragg, North Carolina June 10-15. More than 35 Soldiers representing seven Geographic Commands and 22 Functional Commands, will spend the week competing in a variety of challenges including firing weapons, land navigation, the Army Physical Fitness Test, and various mystery events. These challenges will ultimately test their capabilities, combat-readiness, and lethality.

U.S. Army photo by Maj. Michelle Lunato/released

U.S. Army Reserve Spc. Darren Odell, a petroleum supply specialist from Carbondale, Illinois, with Detachment 3, Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 398th Infantry Regiment, 98th Training Division (Initial Entry Training), 108th Training Command (IET), assembles a M9 during the weapons assembly/disassembly event at the 2018 U.S. Army Reserve Best Warrior Competition at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, June 14, 2018. Today, U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers give everything they have to push past their limits and finish the last day of events in the 2018 U.S. Army Reserve Best Warrior Competition.

U.S. Army Reserve photo by Pfc. Keely Key

However, the young Soldier said he did find some events more challenging, like a swimming event that was part of the German Armed Forces Badge for Military Proficiency, an added component to this year’s Best Warrior Competition.

The unique experiences and challenges made the command-level event even more exciting to O’Dell though.

“This was way more and way better than I thought it was going to be. I’ve gained so much experience...and went much further than I thought I was going,” said the Carbondale, Illinois resident. “I got to rappel out of a helicopter. I got to shoot Sniper rifles, AT4s, and every weapon system that everybody drools over, and I got to shoot them and have fun.”

The variety and schedule of events through the week was left mainly unknown to the competitors. This manner of competition is an effective way to force the Soldiers to pull from their previous experiences and knowledge rather than any last minute preparation, said fellow competitor, Staff Sgt. Derek Hopkins, the 98th Training Division (Initial Entry Training) Noncommissioned Officer of the Year who also claimed the  108th Training Command (IET) NCoY title.

“It’s a very good way to test people, especially the NCO category,” said the cavalry scout and drill sergeant from 2nd Battalion, 398th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 98th Training Division (IET).

“You don’t go into anything with any mental preparation. So you have to preform, right on the spot to the best of your ability. And that’s under stress, being tired and it’s all timed.”

Hopkins, like O’Dell, found some tasks more fun rather than challenging due to his experience.

“I felt extremely comfortable with the pistol range. I was in the top 10 percent who earned the Excellence in Competition points and earned the Bronze Distinguished Pistol Badge,” said the NCO from Somerset, Kentucky.

No matter how experienced though, all the competitors found at least one event more difficult. The 98th drill sergeant said he was no different, and struggled some with the night fire.

“I am just not used to shooting at night. That was pretty tough...I felt like I barely hit any targets at all,” said Hopkins with a laugh.

Like his fellow 108th competitor, Hopkins found some comfort in the military board, saying that was his moment to shine.

“I was mentally prepared to walk into the Board and know that’s my time for them to get to see me, one on one,” explained the 98th/108th NCoY.

Naturally, each competitor was there to win and represent their command to the best of their ability. However, both Hopkins and O’Dell found the competition offered more of an opportunity to learn and build bonds.

“Most of the time, we didn’t even realize it was a competition,” said O’Dell. “Most of the time it was just the camaraderie of it, helping each other out. If someone was struggling with something, we would help prep them before the event, if we knew what it was going to be.”

Rather than hoarding information to themselves, the competitors found themselves being a team sharing the same experience.

“It was more like a school than anything since we made sure everyone was banding together,” explained the 104th/108th SoY.

The hectic unknown schedule created sleep deprivation for the competitors, really pushing them to their limits. However, that’s just when the Soldiers dug deeper and became a team, said Hopkins.

“I think whenever you are put in adverse situations...you know that you have to stick together. It becomes more of a survival instinct,” explained the 98th/108th NCoY.

That survival bond kept the competitors moving, having fun, and becoming a team along the way.

“We have never looked at this like a competition between ourselves. Not one day. Not one hour. Not one minute. Not one task,” said Hopkins. “We were all just pushing each other through, task by task, day by day.”

Of course, in the end though, the Best Warrior Competition is just that, a competition. Though Hopkins and O’Dell won’t move on to represent the entire Army Reserve at the Department of the Army Best Warrior Competition later this year, they still won in different ways.

The 108th Training Command (IET) SoY and NCoY won in terms of experience and knowledge that they will now return to not only their divisions, but on to their peers, Soldiers and even future Soldiers.

And according to O’Dell, being able to learn and become a better Soldier, is the kind of winning he can be happy with for now.

“Really I don’t think anyone lost,” said O’Dell. “At any level you compete, you learn. You don’t lose, you learn.”

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The Griffon Summer 2018

Vol. 42.2 | Summer 2018

The Griffon
The Griffon is written and published quarterly in the interest of the 108th National Training Command.

 






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