Challenging Oneself

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FORT KNOX, Ky. — It was my privilege to represent my unit, the Bravo Company, 3rd Battalion, 319th Regiment, at the 104th Training Division’s annual Best Warrior Competition at Fort Knox, Kentucky, this past March. 

This was the first BWC that I competed in and my only knowledge of the competition was from previous competitors in my unit. I prepared for the competition by balancing my workout schedule, looking over land navigation notes, and creating a book dedicated to board questions. It was definitely obvious I was nervous, but I wanted to prepare myself well enough to face whatever challenges came my way. At the competition, I soon realized I would be the only female among the other twenty or so competitors. This intimidated me at first, but soon I saw this as motivation to keep up with my male competitors. In this competition non-commissioned officers competed with other NCOs. The winner is awarded the title, “NCO of the year.”

Some of the first few obstacles we faced were land navigation coordinates leading us to each of our events and a packing list for what would be needed in our rucksack as we moved forward. I spent the first night plotting my points on a map, packing my rucksack, and wondering what the next few days would bring.

Events consisted of the Army Combat Fitness Test, qualifying on the M4 carbine and M9 pistol, a rappel tower, an obstacle course, a Combat Water Survival Test, medical lanes, weapon functions, a timed written essay, a timed question exam, and a board. Each event would be rucked to with around 40-45lbs of equipment.

I was familiar with the rappel tower – I remember accomplishing it during my time at Basic Combat Training. However, this time was different. After rucking for a couple of miles that day, we arrived at the rappel tower. Here, instructors coached us on how to tie our own ropes around ourselves for each repel. We rappelled a total of three times: one without gear down the wall, one with gear down the wall, and one with gear down the open side of the tower. Our gear included the Fighting Load Carrier, the rucksack, and a protective mask on our waist.

Straight after the rappel tower, we were informed that we would then complete the confidence course, the obstacle course, and then medical lanes. At the time, I remember being exhausted from the day’s rucking and just finishing with the rappel tower. I watched as my older and stronger competitors easily accomplished some of these tasks without seeming to break a sweat. I knew that I would not quit or back down from any of these obstacles, but they still intimidated me. The encouragement given to me by my fellow competitors motivated me to work as hard as I could. This further proved to me that the Army is a team. We only accomplish our goals if we help each other get better and succeed. There were times during the obstacle course that I thought I could not complete it, but with the encouragement I received, I found myself being able to jump over walls, climb through nets, and carry ammo cans up flights of stairs.

I carried this energy for the remaining days of the competition and encouraged others as best I could. At the Combat Water Survival Test, we were faced with multiple tasks in water. A couple of the competitors admitted to having never learned to swim, yet they would nevertheless attempt this event. Watching these Army leaders push themselves to the limit by jumping into 10 ft deep water blindfolded with gear on and was inspiring to me.

My fellow competitors and the cadre supported me the entire time and pushed me to be the best that I could be. At the times when I thought I could not move another step, I had the encouragement from everyone around me who reminded me what I was working toward. Female cadre members, including one of the competition medics, continued to motivate me throughout the days. This truly helped me more than I am able to express. As a female in a competition like this, it only proved to me that I was just as capable of completing these demanding tasks. To compete at a level with some of the best overall Soldiers in the unit was truly humbling and I will never forget this experience. It motivated me to work harder at areas I was lacking in and to seek out new challenges. For those reading this account and considering competing in the future, I would highly recommend this unique experience.

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