This was no ordinary Battle Assembly Training weekend at Fort Dix, New Jersey for the 2/417th Battalion, 3rd Brigade, 98th Training Division (Initial Entry Training). Sure, the four-day BTA was unusual in that it started on a Saturday and ended on a Tuesday. However, it was so much more than that. Lt. Col. Matthew Darcangelo, who assumed command of the battalion in May, offered a challenge to battalion staff and company leadership alike. Tapping into the experience and skillset of the plans and operations section, Darcangelo set in motion his vision for some friendly competition among the companies: the battalion’s inaugural Best Company Competition for the soon-to-be coveted Mohegan Warrior Trophy.
The entire operation was spearheaded by the plans and operations noncommissioned officer, Sgt. 1st Class James Walsh, who took Darcangelo’s idea and almost literally ran with it. Securing all of the necessary training sites, Walsh built a training plan that ranged from a Periodic Health Assessment (PHA) to the new Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT). Once the administrative concerns of the PHA were completed and subsequently set aside, drill sergeants, candidates and officers from each of the companies endeavored into the more challenging aspects of the weekend.
Despite the perishability of this skill, drill sergeants must remain proficient in this task to prepare basic trainees in the event they find themselves needing to navigate from one point to another, without the assistance of modern technological gadgets. Armed with only maps, protractors and lensatic compasses, 2/217th Soldiers plotted points and trekked into the woodline, hoping to stay on course and collect their point identifiers.
Five-Mile Road March
Company teams were released every fifteen minutes to allow for staggered start times at the Military Operations on Urban Terrain (MOUT) site. Then, the rain started, prompting several utterances of the all-too-common drill sergeant refrain, “if it ain’t rainin’, it ain’t trainin’.” Soldiers sloshed through puddles on Range Road, pelted with raindrops, wiping away the sweat-rain mixture, finally realizing complete saturation: the moment that you realize you simply cannot get any wetter.
Find and Move a High-Value Target
The precipitation let up as teams assembled to plan an assault on the MOUT site. In the scenario, opposing forces, or OPFOR, had detained a high-value target (HVT) in one of the larger buildings on the site, and it was the objective of the teams to collect that HVT with minimal casualties.
|Master Sgt. Johnny Komla, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2/417th Battal-ion, 3rd Brigade, 98th Training Division (Initial Entry Training), shakes off the rain as he partici-pates in the foot march portion of the Best Company Competition while at Battle Assembly at Fort Dix, New Jersey in October 2018.||Sgt. 1st Class Lamont Jones, Alpah Company, , 2/417th Battalion, 3rd Brigade, 98th Training Division (Initial Entry Training), participates in the 250 meter Sprint-Drag-Carry event of the ACFT as part of the Best Company Competition while at Battle Assembly at Fort Dix, New Jersey in October 2018.|
OPFOR offered a realistic portrayal of potential enemy forces, taunting oncoming Soldiers with a megaphone. Teams were rated on their ability to move tactically and secure the HVT. Although somewhat disjointed and seemingly out of practice at times, Soldiers moved with enthusiasm and fluidity, demonstrating skills that many of them used in real-world situations in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
Army Combat Fitness Test
After that task, Soldiers changed into their Army physical fitness uniforms and reported to the Griffith Field House just off Doughboy Field. Here, U.S. Army Reserve drill sergeants were introduced to the new Army Combat Fitness Test, designed to better test Soldier ability to survive in combat. Sgt. 1st Class Shawn Monette of Bravo Company, expertly led the demonstrations of each event with assistance from other Bravo Company drill sergeants.
|2/417th Battalion Commander, Lt. Col. Matthew Darcangelo, prepares to announce the winning company of the Mohegan Warrior Trophy as part of the Best Company Competition while at Battle Assembly at Fort Dix, New Jersey in October 2018.||Sgt. 1st Class Shawn Monette, Bravo Company, 2/417th Battalion, 3rd Brigade, 98th Training Division (Initial Entry Training), describes the events of the Army Combat Fitness Test as Sgt. 1st Class James Walsh, Headquarters and Headquarters Company demonstrates the 250 meter Sprint-Drag-Carry as part of the Best Company Competition while at Battle Assembly at Fort Dix, New Jersey in October 2018.|
Once demonstrations were complete, the strongest members of each company started racking weights for the deadlift. The competition was tough, but when all was said and done, Sgt. Jacob Kennedy of Bravo Company successfully executed three lifts of 500-pounds.
Following a thorough warmup, Soldiers lined up and completed other ACFT events including standing power throws, leg tucks, and the infamous 250-Meter Sprint-Drag-Carry.
When all was said and done, the Mohegan Warrior Trophy went to Alpha Company, led by Capt. Ken Wojtak and 1st Sgt. Andres Talavera. Despite that, an informal poll of the Soldiers who participated indicated that they all won. Soldiers left challenged, motivated and inspired, with a feeling of satisfaction of time well-spent.