FORT McCOY, Wis. –
Spc. Omid A. Skinner isn’t from the United States, but that hasn’t stopped him from racking up achievements as an American Soldier.
Skinner, a former member of the British Territorial Army, joined the U.S. Army in 2018 and since then has mainly served as a truck driver for the 441st Transportation Company based in New Orleans. Yet in January, his training became focused on preparing for, competing in, and winning increasingly higher levels of Best Warrior competitions.
“I love the U.S. military,” he said. “If you are willing to put in the effort, you’re going to get rewarded with the most amazing things.”
This month, Skinner joins his fellow Soldiers to contend for the United States Army Reserve Command Best Warrior Competition at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin. The annual week-long event brings troops from across the nation to test their military skills, physical fitness and knowledge.
Skinner, who was born in Wales, credits the lessons and examples provided by his parents for his work ethic. His father, who is English, met his mother, who is Iranian, while restoring a staircase at her family’s home.
“My dad taught me to always give everything I have to anything I do. That’s what I’ve always done,” he said, noting his mother’s perseverance showed him how to accomplish goals. “She came from Iran to England without knowing a word of English, taught herself to be fluent in English and has thrived ever since.”
Skinner spent part of his childhood in West Sussex and attended the University of Portsmouth where he also played soccer. When he was 17, he joined the British Signal Corps and served for about four years. He immigrated to the States in 2011 for his civilian employer.
Seven years later, having married an American and fathered two daughters with her, he joined the U.S. Army Reserve. Many on the English side of his family have been members of the Royal Air Force and Skinner’s interest in the military had not waned with his time in the United States.
He said he loves America and visits to other countries helped clarify his appreciation for it.
“You realize how lucky we are to be living here,” he said of his adopted land. “I wanted to join up and protect the freedoms I benefitted from.”
Sgt. 1st Class Lawrence K. Olive, first sergeant for the 441st Transportation Company, said Skinner has been one of his best Soldiers. He explained that the specialist knows how to handle multiple vehicles and the quality of his work is reflected in his ability to perform the job.
“He’s a hard charger,” Olive said. “If I put out a task he’s always the first to volunteer. He’s a real go-getter.”
This determination to excel has served Skinner well in the recent contests. He said that at the 377th Theater Sustainment Command Best Warrior in April, he collapsed from the heat during night land navigation. After a night of rest and rehydration, he was able to recover and do well enough in the remaining challenges to win the top enlisted award.
“It’s a marathon, not a sprint,” he said. “I had a really bad day the first day and had to pick it up the next two days … I went at it and I went full strength.”
Another source of motivation is Skinner’s faith. He has a quote from the Koran tattooed on his side which inspired him to push through every difficult day of the contests. The verse states, “Be patient. For what was written for you was written by the greatest of writers.”
When he was growing up, he rejected his Persian heritage. Now, although he doesn’t practice all the rituals of Islam, he embraces it. His father converted to the faith before marrying his mother.
“It’s something I always struggled with,” he said. “It’s a big part of my life now.”
Although Skinner has experienced prejudice in the past because of his heritage and religion, that hasn’t been an issue with his fellow U.S. servicemembers.
“I’ve never had anything but the utmost respect from everyone,” he said.
He appreciates the support and bonding he’s experienced with other American Soldiers, especially during training and the Best Warrior competitions.
“I feel like people here are my family,” he said. “It’s so diverse. It really is a wonderful thing.”
Another aspect of Best Warrior competitions Skinner enjoys are the tougher tasks of being a Soldier – especially being in the field. After the 642nd Regional Support Group contest in January, he said he wished he could do those activities every weekend.
“The dirtier and more uncomfortable I am, the happier I am,” he said.
Skinner already has plans to attend Airborne School, would like to attend drill sergeant school and hopes to deploy overseas in the near future. He has his American citizenship paperwork filled out and is ready to submit it.
“You only get one life,” he said. “There are so many things I want to do in this military career.”
At the moment, his main goal is to study, train and do the best he can in the USARC competition.
“I’m on one clear mission,” Skinner said. “That’s been my every waking breath right now.”