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USACAPOC(A) Soldiers compete in command's Best Warrior Competition

By Maj. Saska Ball | U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (Airborne) | May 6, 2019

FORT MCCOY, Wis. —

Every Spring, U.S. Army Reserve units across the globe—from company-level on up to division-level—host their own version of a Best Warrior Competition, in order to find one enlisted Soldier and one noncommissioned officer to represent their command at the U.S. Army Reserve Command Best Warrior Competition

This year’s United States Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (Airborne) Best Warrior Competition was held here, April 26 thru April 30, 2019.

In total, 16 Soldiers competed for those coveted two spots. 

Best Warrior Competitions have become a normal, standard, and routine annual event. However, these 16 competitors were anything but “normal.” Some competitors were former Marines, some had just left active-duty Army, and a couple were fresh out of basic training. Some were full-time college students, others were in law enforcement, a few were in the finance world, one was an insurance adjuster, and another a business owner. There were even a few who juggled the college/career life. 

They all had one thing in common—the goal to become the next USACAPOC(A) Best Warrior. 

“I know it takes a lot of time to train for the Best Warrior,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Peter Trotter, senior enlisted leader of USACAPOC(A). “It takes a lot of courage to come here and compete,” he continued. “It takes a lot of patience and time, and it takes being fearless.” 

During the competition, hosted by the 353rd Civil Affairs Command, based out of Staten Island, New York, the Soldiers were tested on physically demanding events, such as the Army Physical Fitness Test, an 800 meter swim, land navigation, 10 kilometer ruck-march, and conquered an obstacle course. 

“The ruck march was difficult and the terrain was not fun,” said PV2 Connor Magee, a civil affairs specialist, 1003rd Training Company, 1st Training Brigade, out of Garner, North Carolina. “It was sandy in some parts, a lot of uphill, and it was raining, so it was hard to get traction.” 

They were also graded on their Army Warrior Tasks, Combat-Life Saving Skills and Squad Tactics. 

“I know there’s some refinements I could have made in hindsight, but it’s part of the competition,” said Sgt. Nathan Kubinski, a civil affairs specialist, 492nd Civil Affairs Battalion, located in Buckeye, Arizona. “You do what you can, work with what you got and move on to the next event,” he commented, after calling in a 9-line MEDEVAC. 

The competitors were tested on their marksmanship skills. They only had one shot to qualify on both the M4 rifle and M9 pistol. Their ability to react quickly under stress, overcome the fight or flight response, and to engage targets in the confusion of simulated combat was assessed during a mystery event, the stress-fire.

“We wanted the Soldiers to think they could take it easy, rest, eat chow, and wait for the night-fire,” said Master Sgt. Kenneth Buttrum, 353rd Civil Affairs Command operations noncommissioned officer-in-charge. “We had them form up, put them through some front-back-go drills, released artillery simulators and smoke grenades so they’d have to react to incoming artillery and deal with limited visibility, all while screaming and yelling at the competitors to find a firing lane and return fire.”

To round-out the competition, the competitors’ responses were rated during a written-exam, an essay, and finally, an Army Board in front of Senior Enlisted members of USACAPOC(A).

Each day they were physically and mentally tested with little sleep, little food, and adverse weather, all without knowing what was next. Instead of feeling the tension of competition, the competitors felt a sense of camaraderie; more often than not, they were encouraging each other to do their best. Despite their differences in background, age, and rank, they all agreed by the end of the competition they had become friends. 

“Everyone here wants to be the Best Warrior” said Spc. Isaac Jones, intelligence analyst, 301st Information Operations Battalion, 151st Theater Information Operations Group, in Fort Totten, New York. “We’re all competitive. All these guys are good competitors so it keeps us pushing to give everything in an event, even if we’re smoked.” 

Sgt. Vicente Torres Vázquez, an infantry man, with the 410th Civil Affairs Battalion, out of El Paso, Texas, is the winner of the NCO division.

Sgt. Daniel Dooer, civil affairs specialist, with the 440th Civil Affairs Battalion, based in Colorado Springs, Colorado, is the runner-up of the NCO division.

PV2 Connor Magee, a civil affairs specialist, with the 1003rd Training Company, based out of Garner, North Carolina is the winner of the enlisted division.

Spc. Nico Smith, a CBRN Specialist, with the 436th Civil Affairs Battalion, Orlando, Florida, is the runner-up of the enlisted division.

The winners will continue on to the USARC Best Warrior Competition, scheduled June 23-29, at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Winners from that competition will go on to represent USARC at the Department of Army Best Warrior Competition. 

USACAPOC(A) Soldiers have won USARC and DA Best Warrior Competitions. In 2013, Sgt. 1st Class Jason Manella, a civil affairs specialist, with 445th Civil Affairs Battalion, won both the USARC and DA-level title of Best Warrior NCO of the year. In 2015, Spc. Bryce Parker, a civil affairs specialist, with 492nd Civil Affairs Battalion, won USARC Best Warrior and competed at the DA level.

The winner of the 2015 DA Best Warrior Competition was Army Reserve Soldier Staff Sgt. Andrew Fink, a health care specialist with the 409th Area Support Medical Company, 807th Medical Command (Deployment Support).