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Home : News : News
NEWS | May 16, 2014

Local Army commands come together for Best Warrior Competition

By Sgt. 1st Class Christopher DeHart Army North Public Affairs

Every year, Soldiers from different units across the Army vie against each other to see who is the best Soldier or noncommissioned officer. And every year, there never seems to be a shortage of men and women who accept this challenge and step forward to compete.

From May 4-7 at Joint Base San Antonio-Camp Bullis, 35 Soldiers from four of the senior commands at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston - U.S. Army Installation Management Command, U.S. Army Medical Command, U.S. Army South and U.S. Army North (Fifth Army) - stepped forward to take part in long hours of competition to find out who would come out on top during the 2014 Best Warrior Competition.

Competitors spent three days of "O-dark-thirty" mornings and late evenings testing their mental and physical strength with the Army Physical Fitness Test, rifle marksmanship, an obstacle course, a timed day and night land navigation challenge, Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills, a mystery event and the culminating 12-mile road march.

Although the 35 Soldiers competed together, the Best Warrior Competition was actually four different competitions for each of the participating senior commands and not a single event.

"This is something above and beyond a regular board or PT test," said Sgt. Elias Zavala, Headquarters Support Company, Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, Army North, about his take on the nature of the competition. "I'm very proud to be here and proud that I was chosen to compete."

Sgt. Tonga Tukumoeatu, representing the 323rd Army Band "Fort Sam's Own," felt the same about the chance to participate.

"I'm excited for the experience. I'm a bandsman, so we don't do this on a regular basis. However, as a bandsman, we already have high standards for ourselves, musically. We can transfer that to our Soldier skills and it goes hand-in-hand together," he said.

"I expect a lot out of myself, so I'll just hold myself to a high standard," he continued. "I'm grateful for the opportunity I've been given to represent Army North."

"We recognize the fact that everybody here, in some shape, fashion or form, is already a winner, having already competed at battalion, brigade, perhaps division level (to be here)," said Sgt. Maj. David Santos, the senior NCO who oversaw the planning and execution of the competition.

"We understand the type and caliber of Soldiers and NCOs that we should be looking at for this competition."

Despite this being an individually driven competition, with each person vying for top honors, all the Soldiers and NCOs maintained their team mentality and cheered for one another during each event.

They kept a positive attitude as they tackled each challenge, such as the obstacle course.

"I'm a little sore," said Sgt. Malcom Knox, Task Force 51, Army North, the day after completing the Army Physical Fitness Test and land navigation events. "But I'm doing good. This will loosen us up."

The atmosphere remained light-hearted that morning and there were lots of good-natured jokes thrown around to keep everyone motivated.

As the groups waited to start the obstacles watched the others run through, nicknames popped up, like "the Bionic Man" and "Spiderman." However, all observed with great interest, respect and eagerness mixed together.

"I'm really tired," Tukumoeatu said after finishing the course. "I haven't done this since basic training, but I got through it."

Other Soldiers coming off the last part of the course said the same, but it didn't diminish their enthusiasm about what they still had ahead of them.

"I'm very tired, but we'll just see what they have waiting for us," Zavala said.

Despite being weary from each full day of extensive testing on Army skills and tests of their physical endurance, the Soldiers still looked sharp and professional as they progressed.

"It really took a lot for them to go outside of their particular jobs or positions and stand out from the rest of their peer group," said Sgt. 1st Class Jason Ruiz, Best Warrior Competition NCO in charge. "It sets them apart from their peers. These guys went above and beyond here.

After completing the JBSA-Camp Bullis portion, the competitors traded their sweat-soaked combat uniforms for their blue Army Service Uniforms and returned to face a barrage of questions from their respective commands during individual boards.

Tukumoeatu is the U.S. Army North Best Warrior NCO, while Spc. Antonio Varela with Task Force 51 was chosen as ARNORTH Soldier of the Year.

The IMCOM Best Warrior winners are Sgt. Jacob Durski from U.S. Army Garrison, Yongsan, South Korea, and Cpl. Ryan Perea from USAG Fort Bragg, N.C., for NCO and Soldier of the Year, respectively.

The Best Warrior NCO and Soldier of the Year winners for Army South are Staff Sgt. Luke Klein, 339th Military Police Company, currently assigned to ARSOUTH's 525th Military Police Battalion, Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; and Spc. Crystal Pittman, also assigned to the 525th MP Bn., NSGB, Cuba, respectively.

The MEDCOM Best Warrior NCO and Soldier of the Year winners are Sgt. Connor Loehr, from Bayne-Jones Army Community Hospital, Fort Polk, La., representing Southern Regional Medical Command; and Spc. Travis Crook from the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, representing U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command.