NEWS | March 9, 2021

At age 50, chief warrant officer wins Best Warrior for 4th ESC

By Maj. William Wratee 4th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary)

Chief Warrant Officer 2 Thomas Downer signed up to participate in the 4th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) 2021 Best Warrior Competition because he wanted to challenge himself.

He did not have the opportunity to participate in a Best Warrior competition as an enlisted Soldier, so the 2021 contest would be his first and last opportunity. Downer trained for two months. His goals were to finish and to be competitive. 

By the end of the grueling five-day competition at Joint Base San Antonio-Camp Bullis, Downer had won the Best Warrior Officer Category. When he stepped forward to receive his award from Brig. Gen. Kevin Meisler, 4th ESC commanding general, he recalled the moment as "surreal."  

The Best Warrior completion generally has two categories; Best Junior Enlisted and Best Noncommissioned Officer. For the 2021 competition, the 4th ESC added the "Best Officer Category." Only company-grade officers are allowed to compete.

"We created the officer category so company-grade officers could see and understand what their Soldiers were going through and how hard the competition is," said 4th ESC Command Sgt. Maj. Carlos Lopes 

A promotion next year to Chief Warrant Officer 3 will make Downer ineligible for future competitions.

When asked how he felt about the last day, Downer said, "this is exactly what I wanted - a challenge." When asked what he has planned next, Downer said he would request for the 377th Theater Sustainment Command to add an Officer category so that he can compete "one more time."

Downer joined the Army in 1990. He made it to the rank of sergeant first class before he received his appointment as a warrant officer. His 20 years of experience helped him navigate the mental stress of moving from one physically taxing event to another. It also enabled him to mentor the younger competitors during downtime.

Downer said that "as the time went on, the other Soldiers started to ask me questions about their careers, and I was happy to help."

His career advice was simple but required work. 

"You have to get to know yourself," he said. He went on to say that "when you learn and accept who you are, you put yourself in a better position to set goals and then work toward achieving those goals." This mindset that helped Downer get ready for the 2021 Best Warrior and it helped him win. 

During the five-day competition, Soldiers fired at the JBSA-Camp Bullis weapons range, navigated an obstacle course, conducted day and night land navigation, completed written tests, performed drills and ceremonies, marched 12-miles with a 40 pounds rucksack, and administered the Army Physical Fitness Test and the Army Combat Physical Fitness Test.

At the weapons range, competitors shot six different weapons (the M-4, the SIG Sauer M17, the M240 Bravo machine gun, and the M249 light machine gun, the M320 Launcher, and the AT4). The final task was an appearance before the Best Warrior Board, staffed by 4th ESC Brigade Command Sergeants Major. 

These Best Warrior Competition ultimately tests capabilities and combat readiness. The winners of the Soldier and NCO of the Year category compete in the 377th Theater Sustainment Command Best Warrior Competition this summer.