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Competing and instructing goes hand-in-hand

By SFC Emily Anderson | 80th Training Command | April 15, 2018

FORT KNOX, Ky. — Husband, father, Soldier are three words that describe Staff Sgt. Paris Bledsoe, 5th Brigade Health Services, 94th Training Division – Force Sustainment, but Best Warrior is another coveted title that he hopes to add to his repertoire.

Bledsoe, along with nine other Soldiers assigned to units from the 80th Training Command’s three one-star training divisions, competed in the 80th TC’s Best Warrior Competition here April 12-15, 2018.

“The career broadening opportunities that come with competing in a Best Warrior Competition like promotion, the opportunities to go to other schools, and the experience also makes competing worth it,” said Bledsoe. “Some events you see yourself finishing first, and you kind of know you did well. Then in other events, you don’t know. I like to think I’m still in the running for Best Warrior.”

However, this was not the first BWC for Bledsoe. He competed and won his first competition in 2011 as the top enlisted competitor. Although selected to compete in the U.S. Army Reserve Command level competition, he could not compete because of a deployment.

“I made it to the USARC level, but before I could go I was deployed,” said Bledsoe. “This is my opportunity to recapture the glory I felt I kind of lost in 2011.”

The 80th’s TC’s competition consisted of Soldiers tackling multiple physical events such as a 7 ½ miles ruck march, the Army physical fitness test and an obstacle course. The Soldiers’ mental fortitude was also tested with an Army general knowledge test, an essay requirement and an appearance before a sergeants’ major board.

Bledsoe moved to the 80th TC-level competition after earning the 94th TD’s best warrior title. He admits this competition has been tough, but did not let that stop him from giving his all.

“The time spent away from my family, my sponsor, the time my sponsor spent away from his wife, the cadre and staff at the school house, I just think about everything I have invested into this and what others have invested in me,” Bledsoe said when speaking on why he continued despite turning his ankle in mile two of the ruck march. “It’s a sense of not wanting to have that time wasted, but to not let those people who invested in me down. It was just I had to keep going.”

Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Fillak, Bledsoe’s sponsor – sergeants that mentor Soldiers in the competition and provide them support, agrees that there are other fierce competitors, but Bledsoe should not be underestimated.

“If I had to predict I would say he will either win or be the runner up. He’ll go far in this competition,” Fillak said. “He sprained his ankle on mile two of the ruck march, but he still finished third. Then the next morning he comes out and does 78 push-ups, 75 sit-ups and runs a 12:58 on the two miles run. He’s really tough and resilient.”

Fillak applauded the hard work Bledsoe has put into preparing for and competing in this event, but he knew Bledsoe would bring the same drive and determination he uses daily as an instructor for the 94th Training Division.

“At the school house, we work in a very high tempo environment.” Fillak said. “Staff Sgt. Bledsoe is constantly thinking of good courses of action and sequel plans. He’s also a forward thinker, and he sees potential challenges and obstacles we might face.”

For Bledsoe, this competition is not only about earning the title and moving on to the USARC competition, but using this opportunity as another way to shape future capable and combat-ready Soldiers.

“The leader competencies are leads, develops and achieves. It’s really important that as noncommissioned officers we develop other Soldiers. They can be senior, peers or subordinates,” said Bledsoe who was often seen coaching and encouraging the other competitors. “Any small amount of advice I can give that helps a Soldier to get to the next level, I feel like it’s rewarding for me to be able to spread that, but it’s also important that I am in line with the Soldier’s Manual for Leadership and helping other Soldiers out.”

Bledsoe said the need to compete only added to his rewarding career of being an Army instructor.

“You gain so much knowledge and experience from coming out here competing against other noncommissioned officers,” Bledsoe said. “You train up, study, work with your sponsor and other NCOs, so even if you don’t win, the experience alone is going to prepare you for the next stage of your career.”

Fillak agrees that Bledsoe has a bright military career ahead for him and hopes only the best for him.

“I see sergeant major written all over him in the future,” Fillak said. “I really see him continuing this momentum train he’s on, and I think within a year to two years he should be sergeant first class.”

At the end of the competition, Bledsoe did not earn the Best Warrior title. He placed as the runner up, but despite the undesired outcome, Fillak stands by Bledsoe being a stellar competitor.

“I was honored to be selected to be his sponsor, and I wanted to do the best I could so he could be the best warrior.” Fillak said. “Win or not, to me he is already the best warrior.”