FORT BRAGG, N.C. –
After five days of grueling heat, humidity, and very little sleep, nearly 60 U.S. Army Reserve noncommissioned officers and enlisted Soldiers were narrowed down to two at the 2019 U.S. Army Reserve Best Warrior Competition.
Sgt. Joshua Smith with the 95th Training Division (Initial Entry Training), representing the 108th Training Command, was named the NCO of the Year, and Spc. Collin George with the 102nd Military Police Command, representing the 200th Military Police Command, was named the Soldier of the Year. They will represent America’s Army Reserve at the Department of the Army Best Warrior Competition later this year at Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia.
Smith, 25, a drill sergeant candidate from Ashland, Wisconsin, has served in the Army for four years.
“This is a great group of competitors,” Smith said. “Honestly it could’ve gone to anybody. I’m just honored to be in this position.”
George, 24, a military policeman from Greendale, Wisconsin, has served in the Army for four years.
“I did this for them, my unit and my family and friends for all their love and support,” George said. “It’s a debt I owe them, to win this. It’s been a long week, but I now know what I am capable of and what I can accomplish.”
During the seasonably hot week at one of the Army’s more storied military posts, the Warriors in America’s Army Reserve were put to the ultimate physical and mental challenges.
The competition highlights the very essence of what it means to be the most capable, combat-ready, and lethal federal force in the history of the nation. The competition featured physical fitness tests, mental exams, marksmanship, land navigation, board interviews, urban warfare simulations, and various soldier tasks and drills relevant to the Army Total Force.
“The experience matters,” awards banquet guest speaker Command Sgt. Maj. (Retired) Scott C. Schroeder said. “Education is important, but without experience and action there’s no attainable outcome. Competing is doing.”
Master Sgt. Ryan Cameron, this year’s Army Reserve Best Warrior noncommissioned officer-in-charge is no stranger to this event. Last year, he served as an assistant NCOIC and event planner and has previously competed at a division-level competition.
“The competition brings out the best of the best. I want all Soldiers here to get this training to see what they are really capable of as Reserve Soldiers,” said Cameron. “They can help train other soldiers based on what they learned and experienced. We are pushing them beyond anything they are capable of.”
And pushed they were.
One of the events right out of the starting gate was the German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge test – an opportunity for the Warriors to get a feel for an allied nation’s army physical fitness test and earn either a bronze, silver, or gold badge. This was followed up by the Army Fitness Combat Test, a new strenuous, six-event fitness test designed to better prepare Soldiers for combat tasks that will roll out in October 2020, which replaces the current three-event test that has been in place for nearly four decades.
“Rucking, running, doing push ups in your spare time” Smith said. “That’s the best way to prepare for the PT tests.”
After the initial physical fitness assessment, Soldiers underwent a battery of events to include written exams with questions ranging from Army regulations to current events; numerous day and night firing ranges from pistol to heavy machine gun and grenades; night and day land navigation; an obstacle course; simulated urban warfare; a 12-mile foot march; and a Helo Cast – a low-level jump out of a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter into a lake – a first for the Army Reserve Best Warrior Competition.
Additional firsts were a claymore mine setup and detonation event, and double the amount of competitors than usual, which also led to more female soldiers (seven) competing in the 13-year history of the competition.
“If there was a female Soldier who asked me how this went I would tell her to take the challenge, do it, not let the males defeat you and just go for it,” said 21-year-old Sgt. Ashley Fehlman, 322nd Civil Affairs Brigade, 9th Mission Support Command and a college student studying kinesiology out of Honolulu, Hawaii. “It’s definitely worth it and overall, it looks good to your unit back home to compete and improve.”
Fehlman’s command sergeant major, Command Sgt. Major Jessie Baird, 9th Mission Support Command, made the 10-hour flight from Honolulu to Fort Bragg.
“She’s a stud, and had the fortitude to make up a 100 points over some other Soldiers that did the ruck,” Baird said. “She’s having an awesome experience and this is something she will look back on for the rest of her life and say, ‘I did it.’”
One female competitor has won a best warrior competition at a higher level than USARC – Sgt. Sherri Gallagher – who won the overall Army’s Best Warrior Competition in 2010 at age 26.
For many of the younger competitors, this is the highlight of their Army Reserve career thus far.
Twenty year-old Spc. Shakiera Kapp, 113th Chemical Company, 76th Operational Readiness Command, out of Bennettsville, South Carolina, agrees.
“I’d definitely do it all over again,” she said. “The experience I have gained here has been one of a kind. I would recommend every soldier to at least participate once in this competition.”
Twenty four-year-old Sgt. Scott Smullen, a human intelligence collector with the 325th Military Intelligence Battalion, Military Intelligence Readiness Command, who also works intelligence at his day job, is giving the competition another go around. He competed as a specialist in 2017 at the USARC level and placed fifth overall.
“Best Warrior is one of the highlights of my career for sure, Smullen said. “At the Reserve level it’s the highest you can go so to be able to set yourself apart and in some senses be able to compare yourself to your peers in the Army Reserves and to see the best that we have to offer is always nice.”
Command Sgt. Maj. Ted L. Copeland, U.S. Army Reserve command sergeant major, was in attendance for many of the competition’s events.
“You all have found it,” Copeland said. “You’ve found what makes you tick. Talk to your friends, talk to their battle buddies talk to the other soldiers in your unit. Tell their stories. Spread the word. This is what we’re about.
Other awards are as followed:
NCO Best Warrior runner up: Sgt. Edward Singhchollet, 475th Engineer Company, 1st Mission Support Command.
Soldier Best Warrior runner up: Spc. Kalon Williams, 362nd Medical Supply Company Logistics Support, 807th Medical Command (Deployment Support).
Highest physical fitness score: Sgt. Joshua Smith, 95th Training Division, 108th Training Command.
Highest marksmanship score: Spc. Andrew Hinojos, 227th Inland Cargo Transfer Company, 311th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), 79th Theater Sustainment Command.
There was one gold, four silver, and 24 bronze badge German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge test winners in the competition.