FORT McCOY, Wis. –
Last year, Sgt. Anthony Gershman finished a few places behind the winner of the U.S. Army Reserve 330th Medical Brigade’s Best Warrior Soldier of the Year class here. This year in the competition once again held here from Jan. 31-Feb. 3, 2022, he not only won Noncommissioned Officer of the Year but he paced all of the seven other competitors in total points.
“I thought it was going to be another learning curve to be in the NCO spot but I guess I went above and beyond this time,” said Gershman, a combat medic with 801st Combat Support Hospital, Fort Sheridan, Illinois, who is hoping to finish his nursing degree this summer. The other NCO was not able to compete due to an unforeseen circumstance.
Spc. Artur Potas with the brigade’s Headquarters and Headquarters Company, also went “above and beyond.” The combat medic who emigrated from Ukraine six years ago won Soldier of the Year honors. He finished runner up in the competition last year.
“I feel like a winner,” said the 6-foot-3-inch Potas, who’s over the road truck driving duties have taken him to every state except Hawaii and Alaska. “I feel like a champion. I think I will come next year and defeat the competitors with much more distance between us.”
The competitors from as far away as Washington, D.C., and Utah competed in Best Warrior events which tested them physically and mentally, including the Army Combat Fitness Test, a three-hour 10-mile ruck march, qualifying with new M4 Carbines and SIG Sauer M17 semi-automatic pistols , and several Army Warrior Tasks, most which were geared toward the medical field. These competitors were not only greeted with these tasks but daily single-digit temperatures.
Command Sgt. Maj. Beau Buford, the brigade’s command sergeant major, noted that the ruck march was in “extreme weather.” The competitors stepped off a few minutes before dusk and by the time they finished, it felt like 10 below zero.
“All of them hung around until the last one crossed the finish line,” said Buford.
Pvt. Nicolas Korhonen, a combat medic with the 172 Multifunctional Medical Battalion, 139th Medical Brigade, Ogden, Utah, won the ruck march in 2 hours, 5 minutes, followed by Potas, 2:11, and Gershman, 2:19. Korhonen noted that the cold weather was intimidating at first.
Gershman said he learned how cold it can get after sunset. Before, he had already removed his gloves, fleece jacket and opened the vents on his uniform. “I was really burning up but then at that moment, everything had to be put back on,” said Gershman
The competitors while wearing snowshoes also participated in a noteworthy land navigation lane, on one of the fort’s most challenging. They had three hours to find one point in daylight and the other three at night. The Warriors were assigned to random teams to ensure their safety. Each competitor was graded on their ability to plot their own points.
Soldier of the Year runner up, Spc. Raducu Pirvan, who emigrated from Romania, said this event was very challenging. “It wore me out so fast,” said Pirvan, a behavior health specialist with the 467th Combat Operational Stress Control, Madison, Wisconsin, who has been in the Reserve for three years.
This isn’t the first time an army has challenged Pirvan. He was a member of the Romanian army.
Overall, Pirvan, a lead supervisor at a Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin, resort, said the competition was more challenging than he expected.
Potas offered this advice for future competitors: “Take part in it because the competition is more important than the result.” He considers America his country because he shares the same values as it does. “The only thing you need is to be is honest with yourself and give up everything you can. You will feel like a winner even if you don’t take first place, Potas said.
Potas and Gershman will have another chance to “give it their all” when the 807th Medical Command (Deployment Support) conducts its Best Warrior competition March 2-6, 2022, in Camp Bullis, Texas.