[ The Real McCoy Online Home ]                                                                                                                         July 25, 2008
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McCoy hosts Army Reserve 
Best Warrior Competition

By Master Sgt. Christina Steiner, The Real McCoy Contributor

      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.

Photo: 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)
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 sleep.

      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.

Photo: 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  event. (Photo by Billy Cargile)
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  event. 
(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 Reserves.

       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.

Photo: 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)
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.

Photo: Staff Sgt. Kimberly Jones of the 84th Training Command competes in the Urban War Fighting Orienteering Course. (Photo by Timothy Hale)
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 (qualifications event)."

      "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 winners!"

      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 this possible.

      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 (Leader Readiness.)

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