By Maj. William Allred
412th Theater Engineer Command
Who’s the best?
A question asked through time. Its answer dependent on and limited to the situation.
Out of the 19 Soldiers from the 412th Theater Engineer Command, Sgt. Diego Aramayo and Pfc. Carter Houseknecht proved their mettle at this year’s Best Warrior Competition on April 14-18 at Camp Shelby, Mississippi.
Aramayo, the noncommissioned officer winner of the BWC and a team leader with the 365th Engineer Company in Cape Coral, Florida, volunteered for the contest to improve on his 2017 BWC performance. He initially intended to simply “tough out” the challenges.
“I knew it was going to put me to the test and I mentally prepared myself for the worst,” said Aramayo. “I knew that even if I lost I would not give up.”
Despite his success, he insisted that his victory was not due to his solitary efforts.
“I had strong support from the company level up to the brigade level,” said Aramayo. “My unit allowed my sponsor, a previous BWC winner, to train me as much as possible in between competitions. The awards won are as much theirs as it is mine.”
Houseknecht, the junior enlisted BWC winner and a horizontal construction engineer at the 358th Engineer Company in New Cumberland, Pennsylvania, attributed hard work and persistence to his success at the BWC – building himself to endure the trials.
“It’s tough with school, balancing engineering curriculum and training for this competition,” he said. “A lot of times, I have to ask for special accommodations for my teachers. I work out twice a day - lifting in the morning and then running in the afternoon. I usually run two days a week – three days a week and then I'll ruck two or one days a week to make sure that my body can endure the stresses when it counts.”
Even though he was the first to finish it, Houseknecht admitted the 12-mile ruck march gave him the greatest challenge because “even if you came in first place, everyone always thinks that it's easy.”
“That is absolutely incorrect,” he said. “I remember coming in, and Master Sgt. Robinson was ahead of me in the van. I told him ‘I'm going to need a medic when I get back’ because I was in so much pain. I kept looking back just to make sure that nobody was catching me. More than anything as a competitor I didn't want to get caught so I kept pushing.”
Aramayo and Houseknecht both agreed that they would spread their experiences at the BWC and encourage others to participate.
“If you want to be the best, step up,” said Aramayo. “There's no better way to learn leadership skills and skill level tasks than to compete against others at your level.”
“Things change over time,” said Houseknecht. “Anywhere I can help (future BWC competitors) and, if I am able, I can train with them, because I want to see those Soldiers succeed.”
Houseknecht even stated that he wanted to be a sponsor, a time- and knowledge-heavy support, for a future Best Warrior competitor.
“It was gratifying for my sponsor to see me succeed,” he said. “I think the same amount of joy I experienced (from winning) was experienced in his eyes, as well. And I think that would be gratifying as a sponsor or something of that nature to help a Soldier achieve that same level of success.”
While only individuals win the junior enlisted and NCO categories, Master Sgt. Timothy Waters, the NCO in charge of the BWC, emphasized the importance of the squad events, working as a successful team, in the contest.
“The Army is transitioning to better route - the route for the squad,” said Waters. “They want to see what a unit can do cohesively, because no war is won by one person. A war is won with people.”
With that in mind, this year’s 412th TEC winners returned to their units on April 18 to further strengthen them in experience and fortitude. Aramayo and Houseknecht will compete next at the Army Reserve level next month.