KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany –
After a tight competition, two Soldiers from the 7th Mission Support Command are now preparing for United States Army Reserve Command’s Best Warrior Competition at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
The U.S. Army Reserve’s senior enlisted leader, Command Sergeant Major Ted Copeland stopped by the competition and visited the weapons range. He spoke with competitors there following his town hall luncheon with 7th MSC Soldiers.
Corporal Konner Klein, C. Company, 457th Civil Affairs Battalion, Wiesbaden, and Sgt. Pattisue Graham, Medical Support Unit-Europe will hone their physical fitness, warrior skills and Army knowledge training before traveling to Bragg, home of U.S. Army Reserve Command.
Other competitors included: Sgt. Helena, NievesRodriquez, 773rd Civil Support Team, Kaiserslautern; Staff Sgt. William Thompson, 457th Civil Affairs Battalion, Grafenwoehr; Sgt. William Haynes 773rd Civil Support Team, Kaiserslautern; Corporal Jonathan Boyden, 773rd Civil Support Team, Kaiserslautern; and Spc. Jonathan Diaz of Medical Support Unit-Europe, Kaiserslautern.
At the Soldier level, Klein led in the road march, M4 carbine qualification, weapons hands-on and other key events to gain a 10-point cumulative score advantage over Diaz. Diaz aced the land navigation in less than an hour and had the second highest APFT score.
Klein admitted to being somewhat pessimistic about his chances at competition start, and he had reasons. Perhaps because he happened to be on temporary duty right in Kaiserslautern, he was selected as a last-minute substitution just three days before event kick-off. Some of his required gear was still back at his Wiesbaden home.
“But it turned out very well,” he said. “Even if you don’t win, there’s a lot you can learn from this and become a better Soldier all the way around.”
At the Non-Commmissioned Officer level, the margin of victory was tight.
Sgt. Pattisue Graham, MSU-E, fought hard to edge out Sgt. NievesRodriguez by just one point on the cumulative scale. Graham had strong performances in the medic lane, radio operations, weapons hands-on, and writing events, while NievesRodriguez was outstanding in physical tasks.
Graham, who recently participated in a standards competition for the Expert Field Medical Badge, shared Klein’s attitude about BWC’s learning experience.
“I think my biggest challenge was the ruck march with the Improved Outer Tactical Vest,” said Graham via email after the competition.
That road, or ruck, march is a train-as-you-fight event, which means, of course, the donning of the tactical vest she mentioned and with heavy armor plates. That IOTV Combined with a 35-pound ruck sack, and water, meant that Graham carried half her body weight. The load set her back, and she finished several minutes behind the rest of the field.
‘I quickly realized how much upper body strength I lacked when the weight was distributed solely on my shoulders,” she said.
However, she toughed through to complete the march, and the pain she felt during the event helped target her training goals for the big show at USARC level.
“I plan on changing my work out to emphasize strength training while maintaining cardio and endurance training,” she said.
Each competitor came to find the skills at which they were good and those at which they need further training. NievesRodriguez, for instance, is an avid Cross-fitter and excelled in the physical events, scoring 300 points on the Army Physical Fitness Test, and completed the road march in less than 90 minutes.
Mystery events were assembly and operation of the Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System which was a sub event inserted into the medical lane, and the hands-on weapons event which required rapid disassembly, assembly and functions checks of the M4 carbine and M9 pistol. But there were surprises beyond this too.
“Five boars ran right past me,” said Boyden, a chemical biological radiological nuclear NCO with the 773rd, of the land navigation event. “I think they were, like, teenagers, and they didn’t pay any attention to me,” he said.
Boyden also said he was surprised by having to conduct the APFT in his Operational Camouflage Pattern uniform.
Haynes, a CBRNE NCO, also from the 773rd agreed.
“When you sweat a lot, it weighs you down; like running with a water suit on you,” he said.
Not all the seven competitors had the chance to move up to the USARC level.
Thompson, a Civil Affairs NCO from Grafenwoehr, had among the highest scores, but had a profile which makes him ineligible for advancement. For him, it was a chance to contribute to the spirit of Best Warrior and to test himself.
His present duties have him in the office, and so he enjoyed doing Soldier tasks, getting back to the basics and getting dirt on his hands, he said.
He also liked the comradery that was built between the competitors.
“Most of us never met before this. We had dinner together last night on our own, and we’re all going to have dinner tonight as well,” he said following the post-competition ceremony.
To those thinking about doing Best Warrior, Thompson had guidance.
“Do not hesitate. Find a way to train, because your command wants you to go and will help you do it.”