“You’re late, hurry up!” a sharp command voice rings out of the darkness as a 1st Mission Support Command Best Warrior competitor hurries downhill to the PT formation.
It’s the early hours of the morning at Camp Buchanan, Puerto Rico and already the drill sergeants from the 1-389th Regiment, 98th Training Division (IET) are setting the standard for the week to come.
“We bring a certain level of credibility,” states Master Sgt. Alvin Media. He and his drill sergeants are here to ensure that scoring is consistent, mentoring is provided as needed and competitors are held to the highest of standards.
Soldiers coming to a best warrior competition remind Medina of the Privates he trains while working with Initial Entry Soldiers.
“When you see Privates from day one, when they finish, they are a completely different Soldier,” said Media. “I think that happens in a best warrior competition too.”
Using the drill sergeants to run the training lanes allows for a level of mentorship and discipline not always achieved in their own formations.
“I think it’s the overall what you can bring to the Soldiers. What you can do to make them better,” says Medina.
Drill Sergeant (Staff Sgt.) Raphael Velez is a fan of how the Best Warrior competition measures the knowledge and strength of the Soldiers competing amongst each other but his favorite part of the BWC is not actually competition.
“My favorite part is just being an NCO. Being a drill sergeant, being an instructor, motivating Soldiers, teaching new things,” enthused Velez. “I love being that. In twenty years you are going to have a Soldier saying ‘I remember Drill Sergeant Velez / Staff Sgt. Velez because he taught me this’ or ‘I will never forget he taught me this and I want to teach other people.’ I want to make a change in their lives for the better, not only in their personal life but also as a Soldier in the United States Army, the greatest Army there is in the world.”
Velez offered an analogy from a conversation with his son.
“My son always tells me ‘I’m not one of your Soldiers, I’m not one of your Privates’ and I told him the other day, I said, have you ever thought that I treat my Soldiers like they were my son?” explained Velez. “I treat my Soldiers like they were my son. I truly want what’s best for them. If I have to go out of my way to do it, I’ll do it.”
That attitude was plainly seen as the competitors took a break during range operations to hydrate and get some lunch. Prior to leaving the range, DS Velez pulled two Soldiers he had been observing aside to assist them with firing techniques prior to sending them off the range.
“These two Soldiers were shooting like crazy, it was like popcorn machine without the lid,” he laughs. “This was down time for us, I could have been in the shade drinking Gatorade but I really want to see anyone I train do the best they can so I took my time to teach them and have them practice a little bit more than anyone else.”
That attitude of mentorship and caring was prevalent during the entire completion with the drill sergeants holding classes and familiarizations before asking the Soldiers to compete in the tasks.
We are missing facilities here in PR. If we were at Fort Jackson, Fort Benning we have all the facilities there. But here, where are you going to get a Victory Tower? Where are you going to get a confidence course? There’s none,” explained Velez.
A priority for the drill sergeants was to ensure that the Soldiers not only participated in a fair, challenging competition, but that they were able to take their experiences back to their units and train their fellow Soldiers, thus increasing readiness.
“The person who is going to compete next year is trying to get ready for that and whoever comes out of the competition goes motivated back to the unit and motivates the other Soldiers,” explained Medina. “If you aren’t very good at PT or running there are Soldiers out there who really want to prove themselves and this is one of the ways.”
Drill Sergeant (Staff Sgt.) Carlos Perez echoed Medina’s sentiments.
“We accomplished a lot with the Soldiers. They didn’t know a lot and they need to practice a lot of things… I’m glad we are a part of this because they are learning from the best.”