11/21/2018 | By Maj. Michelle Lunato
Photos by Maj. Michelle Lunato and Sgt. 1st Class Lisa M. Litchfield
In honor of the Division’s 100th Anniversary, the 98th Training Division (Initial Entry Training) held their first Iroquois Warrior Challenge at Fort Benning, Georgia July 17-21.
The inaugural challenge brought together more than 70 Army Reserve Soldiers from across the division to test their skills, endurance and readiness. Five-man teams from 14 battalions went head to head in a variety of tasks including a 6-mile road march, a rifle stress shoot, and a test on military knowledge.
The team-oriented challenge varied from the well-known Best Warrior Competitions that Soldiers have seen for years, but that is exactly why many division Soldiers wanted to compete, said Staff Sgt. Cameron Edmonds who is an Army Reserve drill sergeant with the Iroquois Challenge Team Champions - Delta Company, 3/330th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 98th Training Division (IET). “The idea of working as a team, including both officers and enlisted, was appealing.”
Winning the first Iroquois Warrior Challenge was not an easy task though, especially since the competitors had no experience to draw a training plan from. However, the 3/330th team just clicked and started training on all they could, said Staff Sgt. Bradley Dohm, also a drill sergeant with winning Delta Company team. “You have to be cohesive and then train together on everything that you do.”
The winning Iroquois Warrior team from Michigan planned to win and did just that by creating training plans that included everything from physical fitness to an array of Warrior tasks. The only thing they didn’t plan for was the Georgia heat and humidity in July, said Edmonds. He explained that the 6-mile road march didn’t seem like it would be that difficult until their later start time put the Michigan team heading out in the hottest part of the morning.
“That really beat us up when it came to getting into the ruck march,” said Edmonds.
His new company commander and teammate, 1st Lt. Phillip Bunker, agreed they had some challenges on that team task. “The short distance was deceptive.”
The competing Soldiers were not alone in their struggles. Several battalion leaders, commanders and sergeants major alike, broke out their rucksacks and marched along side their teams and followed them through different Warrior lanes. The division leadership was no different. Both the commanding general and command sergeant major of the division, Brig. Gen. Miles Davis and Command Sgt. Maj. Ian Coyle, were seen marching the route with teams as well.
Being in the field with the Soldiers is where leaders should be, said Davis. “The [Command] Sergeant Major is showing what a great leaders does. Leaders are out there with the training, with the Soldiers, checking on Soldiers, taking care of the Soldiers, and making sure the training is executed to standard,” Davis said as he patted Coyle on the back after they both finish the road march with different teams.
The team-style challenge was really motivating, said Coyle as he explained how exciting it was to watch Soldiers from across the division working together. “This was a time to share our collective experiences.”
And that sharing of experience is exactly what the division commander wants all the competitors to do. “This gives the Soldiers a chance to get together and collectively train, and then take it back to their units,” said Davis.
Once the competition was over, Bunker said he had time to reflect on the challenge his team won. Outside of the helicopter movement, Bunker said he didn’t see the division competition use a lot of high dollar resources, and that encouraged him. “It was a lot of good ideas for things I can bring back to my battalion and battle assembly weekends,” said the newly assigned company commander.
Other than getting great training ideas, Bunker said the field time with his Soldiers was invaluable. “Any time to get out and lead a team in a high-stress environment like this is an excellent exercise for any officer, any leader.”
In between the hard work and under the camouflage and sweat, Bunker said he got to see a new, deeper side to his Soldiers. “I see how they act in the Drill Hall and now, I see how they act under pressure. They are excellent Soldiers,” said Bunker with sincerity.
This type of team building and experience is just what I envisioned, said Davis. “The Iroquois Challenge is all about great training, and training is readiness. And since it’s the 100th Anniversary of the Division, there was no better way to spend it than out in the field with the Soldiers.”