Story and photos by Capt. Michelle Lunato
FORT A.P. HILL, Va. - Army Reservist Spc. Stephen Janick, a multichannel transmission systems operator-maintainer with Bravo Company, took top honors at the 392nd Expeditionary Signal Battalion’s Best Warrior Competition here on Feb. 8 – 10.
The 23-year-old Wilkes-Barre, Pa. resident edged out four other hand-selected enlisted competitors who came from the various companies in his battalion. As the 392nd ESB’s Best Warrior, Janick will represent his battalion at the 335th Signal Command’s Best Warrior Competition in March. The winner of the command-level competition will continue to the overall Army Reserve Best Warrior Competition in late spring. Then, the winner from that competition will represent the entire Army Reserve at the 12th annual Army-wide competition, which has become known as the “Super Bowl” of Army competitions.
The three-day, battalion-level competition that Janick won reflected the upcoming Army-wide “Super Bowl” in many aspects — just on a much smaller scale of course. Small does not mean easy though. “The title of Best Warrior is not given. It is earned,” said Battalion Command Sgt. Maj. Rogelio James, 392nd ESB. “The Best Warrior Competition distinguishes our warriors from our best warriors.”
To find the best of the best, the 392nd ESB, which has companies in Virginia, Pennsylvania and Maryland, created a complete competition that included a number of events. Soldiers vying for the title were tested in fitness, intelligence, patience, endurance and character. To demonstrate these features in each of the competitors, the weekend event included rifle marksmanship, a physical fitness test, a 6.2-mile road march, a lengthy obstacle course, a military board, and an essay on leadership. This was in addition to testing the competitors on various Soldier tasks like rendering first aid to a causality, reacting to indirect fire, donning a gas mask, and calling for medical evacuation. The variety of events demonstrated the Army’s desire for its soldiers, whether active, Reserve, or National Guard, to be well-rounded mentally and physically.
Being well-rounded is not just a desire for the Army, but its Soldiers as well, said competitor Spc. Colby Ali, a multichannel transmission systems operator-maintainer with Alpha Company, Detachment 1, 392nd ESB. “If you are serious about the military, you will take the time to stay a balanced soldier.”
Staying fit and current on all training can be hard for any soldier, but it can be particularly challenging when you throw in a civilian job and family responsibilities, said 35-year-old competitor Spc. Ny Sok, a mechanic with Charlie Company, 392nd ESB. “You have to be prepared to do something like this. Honestly, we should be prepared all of the time, but in reality, sometimes we are just not.”
The goal of self improvement has to come from within, explained Sok. “As Reservists, we need to take the time to improve ourselves. We can’t rely on the two days a month.” Sok, who is “definitely a career soldier,” said the competition motivated him to step up his training and studying, whether or not he won top honors. “I’ve learned that there are a lot of things I need to improve on, which is important for those of us who want to stay in.”
As the battalion command sergeant major, James believes this is exactly why the Army continues to hold the Best Warrior Competitions. “It takes a lot of time and sacrifice to stay on top of the demands of being a citizen-soldier. Hosting the Best Warrior Competition opens a conduit for warriors to strive for.”
The competition is not just about the winners, said James. “The entire process creates spirit de corps among our soldiers and boasts morale … and when soldiers are motivated, the Army does not have to force training.”
Motivation and the desire for success are basic core requirements of good soldiers, said battalion Best Warrior Janick. “To be a good soldier, you have to want to be here… You need to have pride in yourself, but also in your country.”
The reputation of pride and excellence is what drew competitor Spc. Bryce Reese, a special electronics repairer for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 392nd ESB, to the Army in the first place. “I like the standards we have to uphold and the way people look at you.” Being a soldier is a 24/7 commitment, and I want others to look at me and think that I am “squared away,” he explained. “A good soldier will always want to be the best and set a good example.”
The 392nd Best Warrior couldn’t agree more. Janick, who is new to his company, said he decided to enter the competition to prove something to himself and make a good impression by putting his best foot forward.
The battalion leadership’s response to Janick’s goal: mission complete.