By Maj. William Allred
412th Theater Engineer Command
Forty-one Soldiers from the 412th and 416th Theater Engineer Command (TEC) endured an eleven-event Best Warrior Competition (BWC), April 14-18 at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, to prove who will compete at higher levels.
Master Sgt. Timothy Waters, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the BWC, sought to challenge the Soldiers with constant physical and mental tasks in a field environment to determine the winner. Overall, the joint event both together the two engineer commands in a shared vision.
“We had 412th TEC and 416th combined best warrior competition, which is a great partnership we have with the 416th Theater Engineer Command,” said Waters.
All Soldiers completed a full Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT), two written essays, day and night land navigation, Expert Soldier Badge (ESB) tasks, Engagement Skills Trainer (EST) for M16/M4 and M9, live weapons qualification for M16/M4 and M9, weapons lanes, Leaders Reaction Course (LRC), a Soldier Board, and a 12-mile ruck march. All were within a tight three-day time frame with little notice to what came next.
“You have to overcome the adversity,” said Waters. “Out here, you're always going to face challenges, things are going to change.”
After an orientation/travel day, Waters and his support staff faced trials of their own as severe weather on the first day prevented events to start as planned. Hours of heavy rain with multiple lightning strikes forced the participants to wait out the storm then rapidly adjust to an even tighter schedule.
“The competition really started (with) the ESB lanes, which is something big in the military right now,” said Waters, remembering how his team adjusted from an early morning ACFT to the alternate training. “They moved on to land navigation, both day and night.” With a break between the day and night segments, he explained, “They ended up doing (the ACFT) around eight o'clock that night. After that, they went back and did night land navigation.”
After a long first day in their rearview, the competitors tackled EST training for both the M9 and M16/M4, weapons lanes (where they showed their proficiency in crew-serve weapons), the live-fire M9 weapons qualifications range, and the LRC, where they worked as a squad to overcome a range of combined mental and physical tasks.
Sgt. Gregory Goggins, a Best Warrior competitor from the 306th Engineer Company in Farmingdale, N.Y., said that the LRC was his favorite event because a squad had to find unique ways to different challenges.
“It’s getting the team across or getting the team to complete any of those, many of those obstacles,” said Goggins. “And I think that was a real test of how we operate as a squad.”
Waters agreed stating that the Army is always about adjusting to things you or your squad face. He eagerly endorsed the use of squads in the competition as the first time to include such activities.
“It’s the first combined BWC and first best squad competition,” said Waters. “So, the squad that came out this year will be known as the first team, first squad for the Army Reserve to conduct that for the TECs.”
On the third and final day of challenges, the Soldiers met the live-fire range for M16/M4 weapons qualification, the Soldier board, a written essay, and a 12-mile ruck march. A grueling finish to a high-speed chain of trials.
Spc. Kylee Hubbard, a Best Warrior competitor from the 368th Engineer Battalion in Londonderry, N.H., insisted that physical requirements for the BWC, especially the ruck march, were not to be taken lightly.
“Make sure that you are physically fit enough (to compete in the BWC),” said Hubbard. “Especially for a 12-mile ruck. It's probably one of the hardest things that you will ever do and it's definitely not something you can just walk into blindly and just go for it.”
Waters said that he hopes that the lessons learned do not remain with the competitors but are taught to others looking to prove their skill.
“(I hope they) take not only the knocks, not only the greatness that they've accomplished but, also, the things they can work on,” said Waters. “Take that back to the units and are used to develop their Soldiers further.”
Waters said that the BWC used to just be an administrative-style Soldier board and has since expanded to more challenging heights.
“Every unit, every level, is trying to make it more difficult,” said Waters. “And that's just a challenge of Soldiers because we're getting better Soldiers, like they're getting better at what they do.”
On that, Goggins and Hubbard agreed that the BWC proved to be tough in every way but they were up to the test.
“With this competition, you definitely push yourself,” said Goggins. “To take those responsibilities you need to get your Soldiers ready, making sure that you're sound at what you have to do.”
“It's honestly the best thing that I could have ever signed up for,” said Hubbard. “I've had more opportunity here than I have in a while and it's just a mind-blowing experience.”
The BWC concluded on April 18 with an awards presentation ceremony and the competitors traveling back to their homes and units with all of the knowledge they gained from this demanding event. Winners will compete at the Army Reserve Command level.