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Different Lives, Same Warrior Spirit

By Sgt. William Parsons | 214th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment | June 20, 2017

FORT BRAGG, N.C. — They come from as far as Europe and Hawaii, representing military specialties from paralegal to musician to watercraft operator.

They have diverse civilian careers: students, schoolteachers, security guards, accountants, and many others. But they are all U.S. Army Reserve Warriors, and they represent the best their respective commands have to offer in the 2017 U.S. Army Reserve Command Best Warrior Competition, held here June 11-17.

The winners of this competition go on to compete against their counterparts in the National Guard and active Army for the titles of 2017 Army NCO and Soldier of the Year.

Just what makes these Warrior-Citizens want to compete against the Army’s best-of-the-best? As it turns out, their reasons can be as diverse as their backgrounds and careers.

“I like to challenge myself in many fields,” said Sgt. Curtis Presley, a saxophone-wielding bandsman with the 380th Army Band, based in Richmond, Virginia. “I felt it was a great opportunity to test myself against the best that the Army Reserve has to offer.”

Presley displays cheer and confidence, and seems to relish a difficult challenge. To prepare for the grueling physical challenges of this competition, which includes multiple long marches, he ran many miles with his dog on mountain trails near his home in Durham, N.C. During the second day of the competition, Presley broke a rib on an obstacle course, but continued to the end, regardless.

His enthusiasm for competition is on par with his obvious pride in his military service. He considers it a special honor to perform in public, representing the Army at events from concerts to funeral services for veterans.

“It gives me an opportunity to give what I love to my country, and to the Army,” said Presley. “People are able to connect with their national pride, grieve for those they’ve lost. We use music to bridge the gap between the military and civilians.”

Spc. Wantae Seong works in the insurance business, but ever since his college days at Virginia Tech, he has been a carpentry and masonry engineer with the 760th Engineer Company in Marion, Virginia. For him, U.S. Army Reserve Best Warrior is just another opportunity for adventure.

“I love this, doing Soldier stuff,” smiled Seong, seeming delighted to spend another week meeting some of the toughest challenges the U.S. Army Reserve can throw at him and the other 40 Warriors competitors. “It gets you out of doing what you always do.”

Seong sees the ARBWC as less of a competition than a personal challenge and a chance to enjoy and study up on one his favorite aspects of soldiering: weapons training.

“You definitely have to study up for it, being in the Army Reserve. In non-combat MOS’s, you don’t get to do these things often. That’s another reason I love doing this,” he said.

Where Seong and Presley have had some time in the U.S. Army Reserve, Pvt. 1st Class Andrew Green, at age 19 and this year’s youngest Warrior, has barely begun his journey. Yet, he finds himself, six months out of training, able to hold his own against more seasoned Soldiers. For him, ARBWC is just an opportunity to grow and excel, taking what he’s learned as far as he can.

“It’s a little overwhelming but I’m definitely up for the challenge,” he said. He credits his unit back home at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, the 6th Legal Operations Detachment, for setting him up to succeed.

“For a while, I wanted to go active-duty, I just wanted to go and do everything for the Army,” said Green. Instead, his unit helped him get extra training and classes to bridge time between his advanced individual training and college classes. That led him to compete at his command’s level, and now he’s up against the best of the U.S. Army Reserve.

While Green found opportunities he didn’t quite expect when he enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserve, Sgt. Erin Hodge practically discovered a different world by leaving 10 years of active duty for a stint in the U.S. Army Reserve. Married to a Soldier serving at a NATO post in the Netherlands, Hodge found a way to continue serving by joining the 7th Mission Support Command, located a short train ride from her new home to Kaiserlautern, Germany.

“I transitioned into the Army Reserve and I blossomed,” said Hodge. “In my year in the Army Reserve I’ve accomplished more than I did in my 10 years of active duty.”

Still, though an experienced Soldier, Hodge is a little surprised to have gotten thus far while managing to have fun doing it.

Hodge said the Warriors she’s met here during this competition have impressed her – exhibiting their leadership skills and combat capabilities.

“They could hold their ground anywhere. They all seem like they’ve got what it takes.”

Like some others here, Hodge just seems happy to be among the best of the U.S. Army Reserve’s Warrior-competitors.

“If I don’t win I’m still going to be super stoked,” she grinned.