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Reserve legal Soldiers compete for best warrior

By By Rick Scavetta | U.S. Army Reserve Legal Command | April 20, 2017

April 13, 2017 -- Soldiers from the U.S. Army Reserve Legal Command recently tested their strength, knowledge and endurance during the Best Warrior Competition at Fort A.P. Hill.

The four-day competition, set among the rough Virginia pines, included the Army Physical Fitness Test, land navigation, qualification with the M-16 rifle and M-9 pistol, a series of Army Warrior Tasks, an obstacle course and a six-mile ruck march. Soldiers also donned dress uniforms to appear before a military board and sat a two-hour written essay.

During the board appearance, Pfc. Andrew Green, of the 6th Legal Operations Detachment, showed he knew his history. When one sergeant major asked how World War I started, Green rattled off the details of the 1914 assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo.

"He's done a great job with the competition, especially since he's just out of training,” said Staff Sgt. Anthony Armstrong, 26, of Pittsburgh, Penn., who served as Green's sponsor. The 18-year-old Lakewood, Washington native’s efforts paid off, as Green was selected best warrior for junior enlisted competitors. Spc. Kevin Cunningham, 154th LOD was runner up.

Last year, Staff Sgt. Steven Rafanan, 28, a California native who serves with the 151st LOD in Alexandria, Va., served as a sponsor for another Soldier. This year, Rafanan, a veteran of two combat tours in Afghanistan, decided he would test himself, in hopes that winning could lead to a future assignment as an NCO instructor.

"I suppose I'd like to continue my career by mentoring and training junior Soldiers," Rafanan said.

For NCO's, Rafanan was selected best warrior. Staff Sgt. Roger Capretta, from the 153rd LOD was runner up.

Among the officers competing, 1st Lt. Patrick Martin, 35, of Easton, Mass, came in first. 1st Lt. Justin Holloway, from the 12th LOD came in second.

Martin, a judge advocate with the 3rd LOD, serves with the Department of Homeland Security in his civilian job. Commissioned just two years ago, with no prior military service, Martin said he took about a month to prepare for the competition, changing his normal workout routine and talking to NCOs about what to expect, he said. Once at Fort A.P. Hill, camaraderie among competitors paid off, he said.

"Everyone was extremely helpful, from experienced NCOs and fellow officers," Martin said. "It's a competition, but we were all here to help each other out."

In all, 11 officers and 19 enlisted Soldiers took part. Twelve sponsors took part. A cadre of 22 Soldiers planned and supported the event, which ended April 11.

By 4:30 a.m., on the final morning of the competition, the legal Soldiers geared up for the most challenging event – a forced march, six grueling miles done at a near-jog, while carrying 35 pounds of gear on their backs. A full moon sat just above the Western horizon, its light casting shadows of the pines across the gravel path. Some hiked in packs, motivating each other along the way. Sponsors and cadres also marched.

Holloway, jumped far ahead and held a jogger's pace the entire route. With sweat dripping off his face and a steady aching in his legs, Holloway had a unique way to endure the psychological aspect of the task.

"I just go elsewhere," Holloway said. "I was thinking about West Wing, replaying an entire episode. Martin Sheen is a remarkable actor."

Holloway finished in 56 minutes, 49 seconds - more than nine minutes ahead of the next Soldier, 1st Lt. Matthew Reigelsperger, of the 6th LOD, who arrived at one hour, six minutes. Cunningham, 20, a college student from Harrisonburg, VA., was the first enlisted Soldier to finish at just over 67 minutes.

Each of the Soldiers took away lessons learned from the completion, said Staff Sgt. Derek Roy, a paralegal NCO from Danbury, Conn., who spent his 29th birthday on weapons ranges.

"It's a great reminder of the all the things you know and do real well, in addition to your MOS, the Army warrior tasks, the basic fundamentals," said Roy, who serves with the 128th LOD. "More importantly, it reminds of what you don't know. That allows you to focus on the perishable skills when we get back to our battle assemblies and leading our teams."

The U.S. Army Reserve Legal Command (USARLC) is headquartered in Gaithersburg, Maryland, about 25 miles northwest of Washington, D.C. Led by Brig. Gen. Mitchell R. Chitwood, the command oversees 1,800 personnel stationed in 104 cities in 43 states in the continental U.S. and two overseas locations. This includes Soldiers serving as judge advocates, warrant officers, paralegal noncommissioned officers, junior enlisted personnel, plus civilian para-professionals.

The command serves the legal needs of the Army Reserve Soldiers, families, and retirees. It also augments the active Army, backfilling units, working at installation legal offices and supporting forward deployed military missions. The Army Reserve provides approximately 87 percent of the Army’s legal units and approximately 40 percent of the Army’s attorneys.