By Sgt. 1st Class Lisa M. Litchfield
U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (Airborne)
They say the only things certain in life are death and taxes but if you are in the U.S. Army Reserve, there’s a third – Best Warrior Competition (BWC). Hosted by Sergeants Major across all functional and geographic commands, BWC represents all that is good about the Army: Soldiers skills, comradery, challenge, teamwork and of course, competition.
Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Denny, senior enlisted advisor for the 422nd Civil Affairs Battalion, 354th Civil Affairs Brigade, 352nd Civil Affairs Command, is an advocate for these competitions.
“As we have shifted training to the virtual environment because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have moved away from basic Soldier skills,” explained Denny. “Our Soldiers and our organizations are faced with the task of getting get back to basics with field training and job training. NCOs are going to come away from this BWC with an increased knowledge of skills needed to build that muscle memory and go back to their unit to mentor their fellow Soldiers.”
He's not the only one who agrees. Unilaterally, the command sergeants major in charge of the BWC are united in that these competitions benefit the entire organization.
“Best Warrior is not just about the individual Soldier,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Mielke, senior enlisted advisor for the 352nd Civil Affairs Command.
“Planning and carrying out a BWC exercises the same support mechanisms like logistics, administration, planning, and resourcing that an organization uses when called on to move troops to a forward area or to conduct training,” said Mielke. These events are similar to a unit annual training, and both the Soldiers and units get the benefit of that repetition so the entire organization gains operational experience.”
Command Sgt. Maj. George H. Conklin, senior enlisted advisor for the 354th Civil Affairs Brigade, 352nd CACOM, looks at the BWC as a multi-layer training event.
“We rely on institutional knowledge for readiness to provide trained and ready Soldiers to combatant commands,” said Conklin. “You’re training generations of Soldiers in that it’s the NCO’s job to train; that’s what they do. By conducting a Best Warrior Competition an organization is creating a vehicle where the competitors will take this experience back to their units, say ‘this is what we did at Best Warrior,’ and use it to build cohesion within their unit as well as build their individual skill levels… and one day these Soldiers may be Sergeants Major and they’ll use this experience to run these events.”
Although the 352nd CACOM team had just recently completed their own Best Warrior event, their ultimate success in hosting an in-person competition and mitigating COVID-19 risk made them a natural choice to host the U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (Airborne) level event as well. Although the competition naturally grows tougher at each level leading up to the Department of the Army event in October, the support increases as well.
“Representing the whole of USACAPOC(A) provides a deeper level of support, both logistically and for planning purposes,” explained Denny. “Our units were assisted in developing a training plan that would challenge the competitors and get them ready for the USARC BWC.”
Strict CoVid protocols were put into place to ensure that competitors and cadre alike were as safe as possible during this in person event.
“We flew in the competitors for this year’s BWC, and integrated medics at the arrival point, taking temperatures of the arriving Soldiers immediately to follow COVID-19 protocols,” said Denny.
“Competitors and support staff alike were briefed to keep social distancing, mask up, and separate lodging was used for safety. One of the lessons we learned for the earlier BWC this year was that we needed more medical support, so we doubled the number of medics, from three to six, to ensure adequate coverage and to mitigate any risk.”
“All of this is important because the world doesn’t stop while we have to mitigate COVID-19 risk” said Conklin. “We may have a CoVid outbreak here in America, but our enemies are still training to fight, and we need to keep our level of readiness up.”
It was that mentality that drove the 352nd CACOM team to ensure that this year’s BWC is conducted in person, with safety at the fore front. The shift into a virtual environment during the pandemic was necessary, but it took away from basic hands-on Soldier skills, skills the Sergeants Major are committed to sending USACAPOC(A) Soldiers home with.
“Our Soldiers need to get back to basic with both tactical training and MOS training,” Denny said. “NCOs are going to come away with this BWC with an increased knowledge of skills to build that muscle memory and mentor their fellow Soldiers back at their home units.”
“You have to continue to train,” Conklin explained. “Regardless of the situation, the world doesn’t stop. We’re the most lethal and well trained Army in the world, and we have to continue training in a realistic environment to maintain that level of excellence.”
Continuing to train will propel one Junior Enlisted Soldier and one Non-Commissioned Officer into the title of U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Best Warrior and those warriors will go on to the U.S. Army Reserve Command BWC later this year. ‘Tis the season to come out on top.