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NEWS | March 7, 2016

Contest brings out the best in Reserve Soldiers

By Sgt. 1st Class Gary Witte 642nd Regional Support Group

FORT MCCLELLAN, Ala. -- Newcomers and veterans alike found plenty of challenges at the recent 642nd Regional Support Group Best Warrior competition in Fort McClellan, Alabama.

U.S. Army Sgt. Wayne Jones of Gainesville, Georgia, a team leader with the 461st Human Resources Company, was named top NCO of the contest during a short ceremony Saturday, Feb. 20. Spc. Kyle K. Meheula of Kalihi, Hawaii, a mechanic with the 642nd Regional Support Group, earned the top enlisted award.

The four-day competition tested the Reserve Soldiers' military skills, bearing, knowledge and physical fitness through a variety of tasks and events. Both Soldiers were scheduled to move up to the next round in the 143rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) Best Warrior Competition March 14-18 at Camp Blanding Joint Training Center in Florida.

Meheula, who also won the brigade’s enlisted Best Warrior event last year, said many of the events were similar, but contained key differences. For example, written tests and quizzes emphasized other study topics and details.

“Last year was more physical,” he said. “This year’s more mental.”

Jones said it was the first time he has taken part in such a competition. And he was not expecting it when one of the tasks was the timed assembling and disassembling of a rifle while blindfolded.

“I’ve only seen it in movies,” he said. “To actually do it was definitely a challenge.”

Sgt. Kevin E. Graney of Pemberton, New Jersey, lead mechanic for the 352nd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, previously competed in a Best Warrior several years ago. He wanted to take part to better himself as a Soldier and pass the knowledge he gains to lower enlisted.

“Whether you win or lose, you get the experience out of it,” he said.

Sgt. Lewis Johnson of Elgin, Illinois, a squad leader with the 282nd Quartermaster Company, returned after participating last year.

“I came back for the fresh air and the MREs,” he said, smiling, while waiting to shoot at the rifle range.

Johnson said the previous competition helped prepare him for this year. Best Warrior also allows him to put into practice what he learns during battle assembly.

“Being around highly motivated, high-speed Soldiers,” he said. “It’s welcome. It breaks up the monotony of another drill.”

Meheula, who previously deployed to Afghanistan, said preparation is important for the contest. One part of his training was inadvertent; his vehicle broke down months ago, forcing him to bicycle or jog 15 miles back and forth to work every day.

“It’s a hard life not having a car,” he said.

Jones, who has deployed twice to Kuwait, said he was surprised when he was selected as one of the winners. He said those who are interested in competing should go out of their way to pay attention to all aspects of soldiering and teach themselves as much as possible.

“Not everything will be will be something they give you an in-depth class on,” he said. “Anyone who comes through Best Warrior knowns it’s going to be a challenge and be ready to give it all you have, because that’s what it’s going to take.”