The 79th Sustainment Support Command hosted its “Best Warrior Competition” at Joint Forces Training Base Los Alamitos, Calif., May 13 and 14.
A total of six Army Reserve Soldiers competed for the title 79th SSC “Best Warrior.” They were selected from more than 15,000 Warrior-Citizens and represented the 4th, 364th and 311th Expeditionary Support Commands, as well as the 79th SSC Headquarters, Headquarters Detachment.
Competitors included: Staff Sgt. Genaro Medina, 376th Human Resources Company headquartered in Bell, Calif.; Staff Sgt. Leith W. Strachan, 419th Transportation Company headquartered in Salt Lake City; Sgt. Ananda F. Trulley, 164th Quarter Master Group headquartered in Broken Arrow, Okla.; Sgt. Gustavo Negrete, 79th Sustainment Support Command Headquarters, Headquarters Detachment; Spc. Casey T. Quinn, 257th Transportation Company headquartered in Las Vegas, Nev.; and Pvt. 1st Class Mark A. Hansen, 889th Transportation Company headquartered in Salt Lake City.
Each Soldier had won similar events held by subordinate commands, earning the right to compete at the 79th SSC competition. Command Sgt. Maj. Robert N. Roberson, Jr., the Command Sergeant Major of the 79th SSC gave tribute to their achievement during their orientation brief.
“You are the best of the best,” said Roberson. “You have outshown and outlasted everyone else to get here – no matter what happens – you are already winners.”
Among those competing, only two winners could be selected to represent the 79th SSC at the US Army Reserve Best Warrior Competition: one non-commissioned officer and one junior enlisted Soldier.
“Make it a fierce competition and hard for us to select the winners,” said Col. Norman B. Green, 79th SSC Chief of Staff, to the competitors. “Give it all you got, and go until you drop.”
The competition had been scheduled to take place in April at Fort Hunter-Ligget, Calif., but was cancelled due to a possible government shutdown.
Training events in the Army Reserve are planned months to years in advance to account and coordinate for family care, absence from civilian workplaces, training support, funds, equipment, facilities, travel, and Soldier availability. Therefore, rescheduling of the competition was nearly impossible and was impeded by numerous obstacles.
In the end, this year’s 79th SSC Best Warrior Competition could only happen if it was conducted at JFTB Los Alamitos and completed within two days instead of the original six. The new time constraints removed almost all opportunity for rest and recuperation. Soldiers went systematically from one event to the next, creating a true test of the competitors’ physical stamina and fortitude.
Day one included in-processing, orientation, weapons qualification, a written essay, and a board appearance which did not conclude until nearly midnight. This gave competitors four hours of sleep until beginning day two events.
In order to overcome scheduling limitations, some non-traditional alternatives were employed. Without the option of a live firing range, a simulated zero and qualification range was used in its place via the Engagement Skills Trainer 2000. The EST 2000 resembles a giant video game, simulating real ranges and using real weapons, but includes a state-of-the-art computer system that precisely tracks the aiming and firing of weapons by users.
There was, however, no deviation in conduction of the board. The five sergeants major composing the board, presided by Roberson, uniformly tested each competitor’s knowledge and bearing. The pressure of such scrutiny has crippled the tongue of innumerable enlisted soldiers. The 79th SSC Best Warrior board was no exception.
“It’s not easy keeping your bearing when five sergeants major are staring you down,” said Quinn. “There were things that I knew, but I just couldn’t get out like I would have liked.”
On day two at 4:30 a.m., competitors began the Army Physical Fitness Test, consisting of sit-ups, push-ups, and a two mile run.
After completion, competitors had 45 minutes to change, gear-up and begin a 10 kilometer road march in full “battle rattle” to include helmet, weapon, and a rucksack weighing a minimum of 35 pounds.
Negrete was the first to finish, completing the march in one hour and 15 minutes. Virtually running the entire distance, Negrete exceeded the Air Assault standard of 15 minutes per mile by maintaining a 12-minute mile pace.
Competitors then went immediately to the base gym to begin the Army combatives event, which pitted each member against each other in a double elimination bracket. Winners were decided by submission or points earned during the six-minute matches.
The matches were fought with every competitor’s all, but ultimately training overcame when strength and stamina were exhausted. Negrete, with five years of Brazilian Ju Jitsu training, overcame Strachan in the final match leaving him undefeated.
After the combatives portion, the Soldiers were driven to Camp Pendleton, Calif., a 75-mile, drive, in order to conduct the final event – land navigation. Competitors were given two hours to find up to five points – the closest of which was more than 2,000 meters from the starting line.
Exhausted, soar and blistered – every competitor ignored their adversities and began the event by running in the direction of their first point. Determined to meet the challenge, each of the Reserve Soldiers kept the pace until the end.
Quinn, the junior enlisted competition winner later recalled, “I can’t really pick out one event from today - today was like one big event. This was one of my hardest days in the Army.”
The 79th’s “Best Warriors,” Negrete and Quinn are scheduled to compete at the USAR Best Warrior Competition at Fort McCoy, Wis., in June.
Negrete, the competition’s non-commissioned officer winner, said the event proved one thing.
“Like any Reserve Soldier, I learned that I can do pretty much anything I set out to do,” said Negrete. “I have some work to do – but I’ll be ready to compete in the USAR competition.”
As Troop Program Unit Soldiers, this year’s winners have prepared and will continue to prepare themselves on their own time, through their own determination and willingness to succeed. This makes their accomplishments all the more note worthy.
Maj. Gen. William D. Frink Jr., Commander of the 79th SSC said, “Their accomplishments are a testimony to the drive, ability and dedication of the Army Reserve Soldier. They embody the best of what we have to offer and explain how we are able to be the operational force we are today.”
*View photos of the event at the 79th SSC Flicker page: www.flickr.com/groups/79ssc/pool/
Story by Sgt. 1st Class C. L. Beal
79th Sustainment Support Command PAO NCOIC
79th Sustainment Support Command PAO NCOIC