May 6, 2015 –
FORT BRAGG, N.C. - “I chose to compete in the (Army Reserve) Best Warrior Competition for two reasons. First, I wanted to show my Soldiers that if you make a plan, train hard, set goals, and focus on your mission — you can accomplish anything with hard work,” said Staff Sgt. Andrew Fink, a noncommissioned officer representing the 807th Medical Command (Deployment Support). “I also wanted to show myself that I could still compete physically and mentally with the best at a high level after major knee surgery a year and a half ago.”
A die-hard competitor, Fink will definitely be a hard contender to beat. The University of Minnesota alum with a bachelor of science in kinesiology regularly competes in any and all competitive sports and triathlons. With a minor in coaching, he also coached high school football while in school. He enjoys recreational shooting, trivia and reading; All of which will come in handy during the U.S. Army Reserve competition.
“What I’m most looking forward to during the competition is the surprises,” said Fink, nodding his head with a smile. “The challenge of not knowing what is to come will truly test my soldiering skills because I honestly don’t know what to expect or prepare for. I don’t know what is planned other than the PT (physical training) test and marksmanship, other than that, it’s really anyone’s game.”
Competitors will be pushed physically and mentally to their limits during a four-day relay to the finish line for the right to be called Army Reserve Best Warrior. Each competitor will be tested on their mental capabilities, as well as physically with fitness tests, marksmanship, and other events unknown to the competitors until they face the challenge. They will test their basic soldiering and leadership skills. Each competitor will need to be able to switch gears and think on the fly throughout the competition.
Adapting should come natural for Army Reserve Soldiers as they balance their Army lives and their civilian lives simultaneously.
“To me, being a citizen-Soldier means being able to adapt and overcome any situation that is thrown my way,” said Fink. “Balancing two, sometimes very different lives can be very challenging and having the mental and physical agility to adapt is key to mission success.”
Though Fink wasn’t always a Reserve Solider, he was a platoon medic on active-duty with the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, where he deployed two times in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in 2009, which was associated with the big troop surge and again in 2010. After four years of active-duty he joined the Army Reserve to pursue his civilian education. After earning his degree, he has continued his service for a total of eight years with the goal of reaching command sergeant major as well as pursue a masters degree in either business administration/management or public health.
“The transition for me was a matter of timing. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to make that a career at that point in my life and I knew I wanted to finish my degree, so I transitioned from active duty to the Reserve knowing I could still be part of the Reserve while having the time to still complete my education,” said Fink. “Once I finished my education, I decided that coming back into the Army full time, at least as an AGR (Active Guard and Reserve) was the best thing for me.”
Fink continues to give his all to his Soldiers as a platoon sergeant in 409th Area Support Medical Company, Madison, Wisconsin, but admits coming from active-duty to basically a civilian, wasn’t an easy task.
“The Army Reserve really allowed me to still be a part of the Army,” explained Fink. “I wasn’t completely alone, I still had that in my life and the Reserve has really helped ease that transition; it could have been a lot rougher. I had some great leaders and Soldiers in my unit that supported me along the way to help me get to where I needed to be.
“I love being a part of the Army,” continued Fink. “I love what the Army stands for. Stands for standards. Stands for dedication to your country, peers, family and friends. I love doing it every day, that’s why I am AGR.”
It’s not a secret that being a Soldier can be difficult on family and friend relationships due to the constant training and deploying. Fink may not be married with children, but his family and friends are an imperative part in his life and like any relationship, requires attention.
“Obviously, it has been more difficult for my mother, because she is always worried about me,” smiled Fink. “But my father served in Vietnam in the late ‘60s, early ‘70s, so he understands that I have a job to do — ‘so go do it.’ But weekly phone calls and constant communication always help in alleviating the separations.
“The Army Reserve, with my active time, has shown me the difference between a need and a want. I understand what I have to do, and what I want to do and that affects the relationships I have with family and friends a little bit because I know there are things I know I have to do with the Army Reserve that sometimes affects those personal relationships,” said Fink. “But they understand that and support me because I set time aside for things that I need to do with them as well.”
Relationships, training ... all of these require dedication and perseverance according to Fink.
“Nothing’s going to be easy,” he admitted. “You just have to make a plan and stick to it and never give up. That’s what I try to instill in my Soldiers every day that I’m with them."
“I applied the same thing for this competition. It’s been a long road. I’ve been training for a while ... up until the division competition and then had SLC (Senior Leadership Course) last month and continued to train at Fort Sam Houston,” he said.
When comparing the additional training he has received in the Reserve, he simply put it that what he does now for the Army Reserve is completely different from when he was doing on active-duty.
“Yes, I receive a lot of training while active, but it was specialized training for that special mission,” he explained. “Even though the training I’ve received since joining the Reserve isn’t considered high risk or high speed, it’s absolutely relevant for me to accomplish my job now."
“It’s very detail oriented, and it’s focused on how to incorporate people’s civilian jobs to a very difficult training schedule for a drill weekend and how to prepare and communicate with your troops throughout the process,” Fink said. “Communication is the biggest thing the Reserve has taught me. If you don’t keep the line of communication open with your troops, they lose their motivation to come to drill and then the unit becomes ineffective.”
As the second previous 75th Ranger Regiment Ranger to compete in the U.S. Army Reserve competition ever, Fink proudly wears his Ranger Scroll on his shoulder. He stands out of the crowd, but the training he received as a Ranger isn’t just about soldiering; it is more on living life to help others. A proud American, he says that seeing third-world countries while deployed truly makes you thankful for what you have.
“I’m proud to say that I’m giving a little bit of myself for my country while helping others in need,” said Fink.
Living out the Ranger’s motto, “Lead the Way,” Fink strives to set the standard for his Soldiers and peers.
“I want to show my younger Soldiers to strive to be the best that they can be — no matter what — even if they fail, as long as they are giving 100 percent,” said Fink. “That’s what I really care about.”