Joe Namath once said, “if you’re not gonna go all the way, why go at all?” and from March 20-24, 2017, 25 Soldiers, Noncommissioned Officers and Drill Sergeants of the 108th Training Command (Initial Entry Training) gathered at Camp Bullis, Texas, to go all the way in the 2017 Best Warrior Competition.
The mechanics of the competition were the work of Sgt. 1st Class Brian Blanchard, 1-355th, 95th Training Division (IET) who involved all levels of the command, from company to division in his planning process.
“Putting together a Best Warrior Competition, for this level of command, is a true test of an NCO’s abilities,” he explained. “There’s no manual or set of instructions for how the competition is supposed to be setup or how each event is supposed to be created. I’ve had to draw upon all of the experience of my fellow NCO’s, as well as my own, to create this one-of-a-kind event. A well put together competition can leave life-long memories for the competitors and the cadre involved.”
For those looking to go “all the way,” the road was not an easy one. Blanchard and his team designed a competition build on level one tasks, but in an environment designed to test the limits of the competitor’s skills under pressure in realistic, scenario-based events.
Among the challenges facing the competitors were the Army Physical Fitness Test, day and night land navigation, combatives, a road march with equipment laded packs, weapons qualification, simulated chemical attacks, first aid tasks and movement under fire, teaching physical training modules, the obstacle challenge course, and to finish off the competition the dreaded Sergeants Major oral board.
With a course designed as the ultimate test of a Soldier’s skills and abilities, it was up to the competitors to find their “why” and dig deep to draw upon it for motivation.
For Staff Sgt. Brian Johnson, Delta Company, 1-321 Infantry Regiment, 1st Battalion, 1st Brigade, 98th Training Division (IET), the motivation came from excellent leadership and guidance.
“I feel that regardless of the level of competition that I achieve I will become a better asset to my unit and command through the training that I will receive,” Johnson said.
For others, the competition gave them a chance to push themselves and do something they don’t usually do.
I saw this as an opportunity to train and prepare myself for Drill Sergeant school,” said Spc. Robert Davis, Alpha Company, 1-415 Regiment, 95th Training Division (IET). “I work at a bank so land navigation isn’t something I get to do often,” he explained.
As Reserve Soldiers, any time you have a chance to compete in an event like this it should be viewed as an opportunity according to Sgt. Michael Hughes, Alpha Company, 2-377 Regiment, 95th Training Division (IET).
“There is such a learning benefit,” he said. “Especially as a Reserve Soldier. Any time you get to practice skills – I mean it is competition, but it’s still practice – I feel like it’s improvement. You’re not going to get worse at something by doing it.”
Blanchard sees the competition not just as practice but as a test.
“A Best Warrior Competition is the ultimate test of a Soldier’s skills and abilities,” said Blanchard. “They must be tactically and technically proficient to compete and win. Competitors are tested on a large variety of Army tasks, which requires extensive training and preparation. The event also gives the competitors a great amount of experience and training that they can bring back to their home units to incorporate.”
For Staff Sgt. Eric Radder, Headquarters and headquarters Company, 4th Brigade, 98th Division (IET), it was that plan to bring something back to his unit that helped motivate him throughout the competition.
“I chose to compete in the best warrior competition to challenge myself both mentally and physically,” Radder said. “It’s an opportunity to serve as a mentor to the junior Soldiers in my unit.”
Although everyone involved in the competition learned about themselves and their skills, everyone competed hard and supported their fellow Soldiers and everyone should be extremely proud of the work put in, it was the following three overall winners from the who will go all the way and represent the 108th Training Command (IET) in the United States Army Reserve Best Warrior and the United States Army Training and Doctrine Command Drill Sergeant of the Year competitions.
Sgt. Michael Hughes, 2-377th Regiment, 95th Training Division (IET) – 108th Training Division (IET) Soldier of the Year.
Sgt. Christopher Moses, 3-378th Regiment, 95th Training Division – 108th Training Command (IET) Drill Sergeant of the Year.
Spc. Robert Davis, 1-415th Regiment, 95th Training Division (IET) – 108th Training Division (IET) Soldier of the Year.