JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas —
Each year, the U.S. Army Medical Center of Excellence, or MEDCoE, plans, coordinates, and executes the Trinity Competition at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston and JBSA-Camp Bullis to select the best medic, best warrior, and drill sergeant of the year.
After seven days of grueling, evaluated events, the winners were announced in a ceremony hosted by the MEDCoE Command Team of Maj. Gen. Dennis LeMaster and Command Sgt. Major Clark Charpentier July 20.
Thirteen MEDCoE Soldiers were challenged to negotiate a wide array of tasks designed to test their overall tactical and technical aptitude, as well as physical and mental endurance. They were assessed based upon their performance during an oral board, weapons qualification, the Army Combat Fitness Test, a 12-mile road march and a variety of other common Soldier tasks.
The Trinity Competition is an annual, multi-day, internal competition open to MEDCoE permanent party personnel to appraise and select the MEDCoE Best Medic, Best Warrior, and Drill Sergeant of the Year.
This year’s competition marks the third year that these rivalries have been combined into a singular event with specialized sections for the three specific event categories.
The competition provides the command the opportunity to showcase the capabilities of the top Soldiers who are then eligible to compete in higher-level Best Warrior, Best Medic, and Drill Sergeant of the Year, or DSOY, competitions.
Carefully selected events measured each Soldier’s physical ability and demonstrated their proficiency in utilizing warrior tasks and battle drills, medical skills, and general Army knowledge as it applies to the current operating environment. Each event was meant to push the competitors, mentally, physically, tactically and technically to determine the best of the best.
“A lot of times the Soldiers discover that they can do things that they thought were impossible previously,” said Sgt. Maj. Larry White, G3 operation’s sergeant major. “Sometimes a Soldier doesn’t know what they don’t know; they don’t know what they can do until they try.”
The Trinity Competition planners implemented many mitigation measures to protect what began with 13 competitors, five lane evaluators and more than two dozen support personnel, from COVID-19. Extreme high heat was also a safety planning consideration, as local temperatures soared above 100 degrees each day of the competition.
Charpentier, the MEDCoE command sergeant major and senior enlisted advisor, validated the events and associated control measures through initial progress reviews, walk-throughs and rehearsals prior to the competition. He stressed the importance of conducting the competition with added safety measures to ensure it was done as safely and efficiently as possible.
“Regardless of COVID-19 or other external things that are happening, it’s still important that we continue training, that we continue evaluating our Soldiers and providing them opportunities to excel,” Charpentier said.
This year’s contest was as arduous as participants have come to expect, but not simply “business as usual.”
The number of competitors was limited to allow for increased social distancing during each event, while some other events, such as day and night land navigation, were canceled due to concerns that increased tactical dispersion would put competitors at too great a risk in the harsh terrain at JBSA-Camp Bullis.
This year’s MEDCoE Trinity Competition ran from July 7-13. The heat and COVID-19 mitigation measures played a factor in extending this year’s event from a high concentration of evaluations over three or four days, as in the 2018 and 2019 Trinity Competitions, to the length of a full week.
Allowing DSOY competitors some recovery time between the more physical events was also a consideration unique to operating within COVID-19 constraints.
Since this year’s U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, or TRADOC, and Army-level DSOY competitions are expected to be virtual, the scores collected by MEDCoE for in-person events like the 12-mile ruck march for time, weapons qualification and the Army Combat Fitness Test will go forward and be used to calculate the winner of the higher-level contests.
“Having the competition cover a longer span also allowed us to meet Drill Sergeant of the Year prerequisites while not having the competitors at a disadvantage due to completing those events all within a three-day span,” said Sgt. 1st Class Benjamin C. Radtke, MEDCoE Operations NCO and lead 2020 Trinity Competition planner.
In past Trinity bouts, the tight time period was part of the rigor of the MEDCoE event since the Army Level DSOY competitions re-assessed each area during those competitions. The unit scores that go forward for the virtual event will be used by TRADOC to help determine the Army-level DSOY winner, combined with scores from a virtual board.
The MEDCoE awards ceremony, conducted in a socially distant manner at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston, was attended by competitors and more than two dozen audience members. The announcement of each winner was also live-streamed on MEDCoE social media for those unable to attend in person.
“I want to say to each one of you competitors who are sitting in this room, you have already put yourself above your peers,” Charpentier said during the award’s ceremony
He commended each Soldier for getting out of their comfort zone and thriving despite the challenges of the heat and COVID-19.
“I would say that each one of you is a better Soldier, a better leader, for having participated,” the command sergeant major added.
The 2020 MEDCoE Drill Sergeant of the Year is Drill Sergeant Travis Webster, 264th Medical Battalion. Webster will now go on to compete in TRADOC’s DSOY event. The competition is usually held at an Army post; however, due to COVID-19 concerns, it will be held virtually Aug. 3-5.
The 2020 MEDCoE Best Warrior (non-commissioned officer, or NCO Category) is Staff Sgt. Michael Nguyen, Army Medical Department NCO Academy. The 2020 MEDCoE Best Warrior (Soldier Category) is Spc. Tristan Chandler, Training Support Activity.
Nguyen and Chandler will go on to compete in the TRADOC Best Warrior Competition, or TBWC, scheduled virtually for Aug. 25. Winners of the TBWC will represent TRADOC at the Army BWC.
The 2020 MEDCoE Best Medic is Sgt. 1st Class Jeremy Shepler, Headquarters, Medical Professional Training Brigade. The runner-up is Staff Sgt. Ryan Morgan, 188th Medical Battalion.
Both will go forward to compete as the MEDCoE Best Medic Team in the Army-level competition conducted by the U.S. Army Medical Command, or MEDCOM, at a date to be announced.
“Not knowing exactly what events we are going to have, or how the events are going to be held for the Army level competition, my plan is to ensure that our team is as well rounded as possible,” Shepler said when asked how he and Morgan will prepare themselves for the next level.
“In the event that we actually have an in-person event at the Army level, it is going to be important for us to remain physically fit and strong enough to have the endurance throughout the competition,” he added.
Last year, Shepler finished second at the MEDCoE Best Medic Competition, and he and the 2019 winner, Sgt. 1st Class David Nagle, went on to earn fourth place out of 27 teams during the 2019 Command Sgt. Maj. Jack L. Clark Jr. Army Best Medic Competition at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.
“What it boiled down to last year is who has the stamina to excel at the physical aspects of the competition, to keep their wits about them to maintain their educational knowledge of the current medical trends and who is able to maintain their endurance all the way to the end,” Shepler said.
During this year’s Trinity Competition, one Soldier self-eliminated after the 12-mile road march event. Charpentier addressed the remaining competitors in his closing remarks. He urged those who didn’t get the opportunity to compete this year or those who competed and didn’t win, to compete in the Trinity Competition next year.
“This is just the beginning,” Charpentier said. “Keep trying, keep competing until you are the one who excels all the way to the Army level.”