By Sgt. 1st Class Gary A. Witte
642nd Regional Support Group
It wouldn’t be a competition without struggle, but several Soldiers at the 642nd Regional Support Group’s Best Warrior in January said the fellowship they found finished first.
The four-day event at Fort McClellan, Ala., brought a handful of Army Reserve troops from across the brigade to test themselves against an expected set of physical and mental challenges in late January. There was the fitness test, rifle marksmanship, land navigation course and a seven-mile ruck march – among other events.
Less expected was the support the Soldiers received from their fellow contenders.
Sgt. 1st Class Adam Smith, an operations sergeant from the 145th Theater Movement Control Element based in Anniston, Ala., earned the top NCO spot in the competition. He said the Soldiers cheered each other on throughout the contest.
“It’s a good group,” Smith said. “I think everyone wants everyone to do their best.”
Spc. Omid A. Skinner, a motor transportation operator with the 441st Transportation Company based in New Orleans, gained the top enlisted spot for the Best Warrior. He said one of the highlights was the friendships he gained among his fellow competitors.
“Everyone was pushing each other to go as far as they can,” Skinner said. “It was really cool to see the camaraderie and the sportsmanship.”
Smith and Skinner now have the opportunity to represent the brigade in the 143rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) Best Warrior event, scheduled for March at Camp Blanding Joint Training Center, Florida.
If they can’t attend, Staff Sgt. Manuel F. Valencia, a platoon sergeant with the 287th Transportation Company and Spc. Joshua Fox, an engineer with the 441st Transportation Company will enter the contest in their place. Both were runners-up in the 642nd Regional Support Group competition.
Fox volunteered to compete and said it gave him the chance to use military skills he didn’t always get to practice during monthly battle assemblies.
“I think it’s been really tough, but really fun though,” he said, noting the competition showed him the areas he needed to work on.
Valencia said he had the opportunity to attend as one of the Soldiers running the events, but decided he would benefit from being a participant.
“I thought that was more beneficial than being a bystander,” Valencia said. “I’m always looking for a challenge.”
Sgt. Shaniequa S. Ellington, a transportation coordinator with the 403rd Theatre Movement Control Element based in Anniston, Ala., was promoted to her current rank in November. She decided to compete to demonstrate to her Soldiers they could do more with their Army Reserve experience.
“I just wanted to show them it’s ok to step outside their comfort zone,” Ellington said.
Pfc. Delcoy D. Delius, a driver with the 319th Transportation Company based in Augusta, Ga., said he appreciates the camaraderie he has discovered in the military. During the competition, he said the Soldiers regularly helped one another.
“I learned it can be fun to work together – not just stressful,” Delius said.
Command Sgt. Maj. Denise L. Demps, the lead NCO for the 642nd Regional Support Group, said the event gave the Soldiers a chance to test their tactical and technical abilities. She and other sergeants major spent the first evening of the contest carefully inspecting and questioning participants during an hours-long board examination.
“I think they learned they can achieve more than they thought they could,” she said of the Soldiers. “I am amazed and proud of each and every one of them.”
Demps noted that the event also benefitted everyone involved – including organizers and leaders – by giving them in-person contact that has been rare for Reserve troops during the past year.
“It builds their esprit de corps,” she said. “It renews their team building skills.”
Smith, a former drill sergeant, said he spent a lot of time answering questions put to him by the younger competitors. Aside from his training knowledge, Smith also competed in the 2013 Drill Sergeant of the Year and placed second at the brigade level.
Smith said the physical and mental challenges were high throughout the latest contest. Just last year, he had to recover from surgery to repair a torn meniscus.
“For me it’s about doing the best I can do,” he said.
Skinner, a native of Wales and a former member of the British Army, joined the U.S. Army in 2018. He immigrated to America seven years previously and said he takes pride in his adopted nation’s military.
“I love this country, so I wanted to do something for it,” he said.
Skinner described how, at the turnaround point of the Sunday morning ruck march, several of the competitors crossed the road to fist bump those coming from the opposite direction and urge each other on.
“I made some really close friends,” he said. “It was overall a great experience.”
The 642nd Regional Support Group, based in Decatur, Ga., serves as commanding headquarters for more than two dozen Army Reserve combat services support units throughout the Southeastern United States.