WENDELL H. FORD REGIONAL TRAINING CENTER, Ky. – Nine Soldiers met on the field of competition to determine the best warrior in the 807th Medical Command at Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center, Kentucky, May 4-9.
The four-day competition challenges noncommissioned officers and junior enlisted soldiers in warrior tasks, physical endurance and mental toughness. One NCO and one junior enlisted Soldier will move on to the U.S. Army Reserve Command competition at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey in June.
During the competition, Soldiers were faced with complex challenges for both the body and mind. The competition included the basics of land navigation, a physical training test, weapons qualification, Army basic warrior tasks and a ruck march.
The competition also held some surprises for the candidates to see how they would handle stressful, unexpected situations.
On day one, after many exhausting hours including a PT test and traversing an obstacle course three times, they had to assemble a quick reaction force for an unexpected event as they were getting ready to go to bed. Competitors had to prove they could move as a convoy, dismount their vehicles and move efficiently as a squad, even though they were competing against each other.
In the middle of day two, after what seemed like walking the length of Kentucky on the land navigation course, they had an opportunity to test their protective masks in the CS gas chamber. Afterward, they had to demonstrate their knowledge of basic warrior tasks and conduct night land navigation.
“Land nav has been the toughest — that’s the biggest course I've ever done,” said Spc. James Scott, who holds a military occupational specialty of 68C, or licensed practicing nurse, and is assigned to the 322nd Medical Company, 307th Medical Brigade, 807th Medical Command in Grand Rapids, Michigan. “I’ve never practiced on a non-self-correcting course. That's the first time I've just had to shoot and hope that my calculations and pace count were correct.”
Sgt. Blake Vaneaton, a biomedical repair technician from Lincoln, Nebraska, says he’s been practicing each warrior task lane individually at his home unit in preparation for the competition.
“Here, we did them one after another and simulated a real-world application that was realistic — Army training at its finest,” said Vaneaton. “I believe that needs to be the standard at all units.”
The third day was the rapid-fire board. During this and other similar boards, five sergeants major sit behind a table and ask each individual Soldier questions in a quick manner to test that Soldier’s knowledge on a broad range of Army topics and see if they can think on their feet.
The final day of competition consisted of weapons qualification and a six-mile ruck march over the rugged Kentucky terrain that the competitors felt was tough, but rewarding at the end.
“I knew it was going to be intense…that the pacing would be quick. I knew over four days there was going to be a lot to train for,” said Vaneaton. “I haven't been disappointed yet.”
“The best part about it is meeting new Soldiers,” Scott said. “And you're with them 24/7, so you know how they are and how they aren't. You make new friends very quickly.”
In the end, Sgt. Francisco Vargas of the 2nd Medical Brigade in Garden Grove, California and Spc. Zachary Nickles of the 330th Medical Brigade in Fort Sheridan, Illinois took home titles of 807th Best Warrior, for the NCO and junior enlisted levels, respectively.
“I don't know how many Soldiers there are in the 807th, but I am the top junior enlisted Soldier and that means a lot to me,” said Nickles. “All of my hard work is showing through.” Nickles is assigned to the 801st Combat Support Hospital, 330th Medical Brigade, 807th Medical Command in Fort Sheridan, Illinois.
“I always try to be a role model to younger soldiers and even younger NCOs,” said Vargas. “Hopefully this win will help me be that role model to all those people that look up to me.” Vargas is a motor pool sergeant from the 113th Medical Detachment (Combat Stress Control), 2nd Medical Brigade, 807th Medical Command in Garden Grove, California.