By Master Sgt. Christina Steiner, The Real
Fort McCoy was the site chosen by the Office of the Chief, Army
Reserve as the location for the July 6-10 U.S. Army Reserve NCO and
Soldier of the Year Best Warrior Competition. The Soldier-competitors
vied for a shot to represent the Army Reserve at the Department of
Army-level event, which will be held in the fall at Fort Lee, Va.
Army Reserve Soldiers in the Best
Warrior Competition participate in the two-mile run at the Fort
McCoy outdoor running track. (Photo
by Billy Cargile)
An 88th Regional Readiness Command (RRC) Soldier won the
Soldier of the Year portion of the Best Warrior Competition and will
go on to compete at the Department of Army competition from Sept. 29
through Oct. 3.
Spc. David Obray of the 492nd Engineer Company, Mankato, Minn.
took away the junior enlisted title. Obray lives in Winona, Minn. The
88th RRC is partially headquartered at Fort McCoy and also Fort
Snelling, Minn. Also winning for NCO of the Year was Sgt. Francisco
Gutierrez of the 98th Expeditionary Signal Battalion of Meza, Ariz.
Thirty-two Soldiers started off in the competition; by week's
end 25 remained. Soldiers had to meet certain qualifications in each
event in order to stay in the running. For four-and-a-half days and
nights, they performed under hot and stressful conditions with little
Areas of concentration included: a written exam; an appearance
before a board comprised of sergeants major; an Army physical fitness
test (APFT); day and night urban land navigation; warrior tasks and
battle drills; a 10-kilometer road march in under one-and-a-half hours
carrying a 35-pound rucksack, weapon and load carrying equipment (LCE);
and day and night weapons qualification using an M-4 rifle. The final
"mystery" event that was not revealed until just before it
began was a combatives contest.
Spc. David Obray, a competitor in
the Best Warrior Competition, does push-ups under the count of
Staff Sgt. Devin Hackler during the Army Physical Fitness Test
(Photo by Billy Cargile)
All competitors had to win at least two Soldier of the Year or
NCO of the Year competitions at their local commands before competing
at Fort McCoy.
Obray knows something himself about overcoming great odds to
even be accepted into the Army.
Obray used to weigh more than 300 pounds. With the
encouragement and support of his brother, also in the Army Reserve and
his sponsor for this event, Obray was finally accepted into the Army
In an interview
with CBS affiliate News Channel 8 of La Crosse, Obray said:
"I think the extra weight (he used to weigh) gave me an
advantage on the road march because an extra 80 or 90 pounds, I used
to weigh that much when I was 16."
Senior support elements of the U.S. Army Reserve Command (USARC),
Atlanta; and the Office of the Chief, Army Reserve Command (OCAR),
Washington, D.C., spearheaded the event and were on site.
Sgt. Francisco M. Gutierrez
(right) receives an IV from Pfc. David Boyer after the 10-mile
road march during the Best Warrior Competition at Fort McCoy.
Gutierrez won the NCO portion of the competition. (Photo
by Timothy Hale)
Several Fort McCoy-based units ran the daily operations for
this event, to include the Garrison Command; 88th RRC and the 84th
Training Command (Leader Readiness). Subordinate units to the 84th
included: 1st and 2nd
Brigades, 70th Division; the NCO Academy, which falls under the 104th
Training Division; 1st Battalion, 274th (Readiness Training); and 2nd
Battalion, 339th Regiment.
Small elements of the 181st Infantry Brigade also on post
participated, and smaller attaches from outside the region included:
8th U.S. Army, the 63rd Regional Readiness Sustainment Command; and
the 416th Engineer Command. All-in-all, about 100 support staff
assisted and handled the operations.
Master Sgt. Brian Stewart of 2nd Brigade, 70th Division,
commented on one of 10 Army Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills the
competitors underwent about two thirds of the way through the week at
the installation's MUTS or Mobile Urban Training Site.
During this event, the competitors road marched until early in
the morning wearing all their gear. Stewart was a grader for the
"request medical evaluation" station.
Staff Sgt. Kimberly Jones of the
84th Training Command competes in the Urban War Fighting
Orienteering Course. (Photo
by Timothy Hale)
"During this whole time the (NCOs operating the MUTS
scenario) were throwing out smoke grenades, playing (Islamic music),
trying to stress out the competitors as if they were going through a
real wartime event, to see how good they really are," Stewart
said. "This went on all day and into the evening. I observed that
about 50 percent of the competitors were fatigued and stressed out,
but they still did well at our station. For the most part they stayed
in pretty good spirits ... then they still had to go onto night fire
"The support element (at MUTS) was great," Stewart
said. "We all had rehearsed our particular roles two or three
times before, weeks before and even the day of the event. They were
organized, we always had water and the food ran well."
The week's event cumulated with a Class-A uniform awards
gathering in a post banquet hall.
Because of a four-hour power outage, the food order had to be
cancelled, though cake and cold water were served. The lights came on
just in time for a motivational slide show presented by the Public
Affairs staff working the event.
Featured presenters included: Maj. Gen. Alan D. Bell, deputy
commanding general, USARC; and USARC Command Sgt. Major Leon Caffie,
also the Command Sergeant Major of the Army Reserve. Fred Stokes,
National Football League and Super Bowl star spoke about overcoming
adversity. Command Sgt. (Ret.) Maj. Collin Younger also spoke.
Caffie's speech met with wild applause from the competitors,
their sponsors and guests.
He explained how the Army Reserve for just its second year,
became involved in the Best Warrior Competition, which has
traditionally been an active-component event.
" ... when I was approached by the Sergeant Major of the
Army (Kenneth) Preston, he had reservations that our Army Reserve
Soldiers couldn't meet the muster of the active component," said
Caffie. "I argued that my Soldiers have something to offer to
your (active) Soldiers ...
they have two employments and have to be successful at both!
" ... My job (now) is to ensure I give you the tools to
continue on ... ," Caffie said. "I saw versions of 'crawl,
walk, run' all week here ... I wish everyone could've won but it's not
possible ... only two ... but in my heart and mind you're all
Stokes, now a motivational speaker and author, spoke about
growing up in poverty, overcoming adversity and becoming successful.
He said he saw parallels between professional athletes and
Soldiers. Both professions are taxing physically and mentally, and
being a Soldier is in the heart, just as he'll always be an NFL star.
All the action seemed to focus on the competitors this hot July
week, but behind the scenes, the Fort McCoy support staff was making
Command Sgt. Maj. M. Kevin Dubois of the Fort McCoy Garrison
Command Group commented on the support team. His group oversaw the
road march, transportation from the airport, lodging and food for the
competitors and their sponsors.
"I saw what I always see -- a good 'Team McCoy'
effort," he said. "In the verbal AAR (after-action review),
USARC said we did an outstanding job. They sent their praise and said
they'll use Fort McCoy again (for another event). The biggest
challenges were the hot temperatures and the severe weather."
"I was impressed to see that some of the Soldiers who
weren't even in the running (after the first couple of days) kept
going; nobody quit," Dubois said. "All were motivated in
carrying on a great Army tradition."
This year's two winners received several material and cash
prizes, including: Army Commendation Medals, large trophies, $250 gift
certificates from GEICO ®, free memberships to the Association of the
United States Army (AUSA), $1,000 savings bonds from the Morale,
Welfare and Recreation (MWR) Command, $75 gift certificates from the
Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) ®, and Army rucksacks
with MP3 players.
(Steiner is with the 2nd Battalion, 339th
Regiment, 1st Brigade, 70th Training Division, 84th Training Command