Fort McCoy News September 13, 2013

Best Warrior competitors hone skills at Fort McCoy

STORY & PHOTOS BY ROB SCHUETTE
Public Affairs Staff

Four Army Reserve Best Warrior winners and runners-up are training at Fort McCoy Aug. 1-Sept. 30 to prepare for the October Armywide competition at Fort Lee, Va., and are brushing up on skills and Army knowledge they can share with their units.

Photo 1 for Best Warrior article
Army Reserve Best Warrior competitors train on the assembly and disassembly of M9 pistols. From left to right are Sgt. 1st Class Richard Silva, Spc. Zachary Sharpe, Spc. Mitchell Fromm, and Sgt. 1st Class Jason Manella.

The Soldiers competed in the June Army Reserve Best Warrior competition at Fort McCoy. Sgt. 1st Class Jason Manella (civil affairs specialist, 445th Civil Affairs Battalion, Mountain View, Calif.) and Spc. Mitchell Fromm (combat engineer, 428th Engineer Company, Wausau, Wis.) were the Noncommissioned Officer (NCO) and Soldier winners. Sgt. 1st Class Richard Silva (career counselor, 11th Battalion Army Reserve Careers Division, Los Alamitos, Calif.) and Spc. Zachary Sharpe (civil affairs specialist, 414th Civil Affairs Battalion, Southfield, Mich.) were the runners-up in their respective categories. (See related story in the July 12, 2013 issue of The Real McCoy.)

Sgt. 1st Class Patrick Manzanares, the Army Reserve Best Warrior NCO in charge, said Silva and Sharpe were included because they would represent the Army Reserve if the winners couldn't compete. Manzanares, a drill sergeant with the 98th Training Division of Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., said the trainers were drill sergeants with the 98th.

"Fort McCoy has been very user-friendly and very supportive of the competitors," Manzanares said. "The Headquarters and Headquarters Company, U.S. Army Garrison Fort McCoy has played a major role in our support. We couldn't have done this without them."

Staff Sgt. Roy Burkhalter, the operations sergeant for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, Fort McCoy Army Garrison, said he arranged for all of the administrative/logistical needs for the group. This included such things as scheduling, billeting, etc.

"This allowed them to concentrate on the training to prepare for the competition," Burkhalter said.

Photo 2 for Best Warrior article
Sgt. 1st Class Corey Beal (left), 88th Regional Support Command Public Affairs chief, helps Best Warrior competitor Sgt. 1st Class Jason Manella with media interviewing techniques.

Burkhalter said he also provided similar support for the 416th Theater Engineer Command and Army Reserve Best Warrior competitions.

Fort McCoy also offered quality training ranges/facilities and simulation training opportunities, and staff support from a number of organizations helped to make the preparation successful, Manzanares said.

Ed Carns, chief of the Training Division for the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security (DPTMS), said the Range schedulers and other DPTMS support personnel did everything possible to help support the training and pave the way for the Soldiers to compete successfully at the Army-level competition.

Participants trained six days a week. Training included mock boards, physical training, weapons assembly and disassembly and first aid. The instructors, Best Warrior participants and their sponsors trained together, ate together and lived together as a team during their time at Fort McCoy, Manzanares said.

"We're like a Family," he said. "We look out for each other. We've done this in-depth type of training before each Army-level Best Warrior competition, and it allows the participants to do well at the Army-level competition. Our Soldier representative won one year, and the competition provides us with the opportunity to show that the Reserves belong on the same field as the active-duty Soldiers."

Manella said the atmosphere during the preparation for the Army-level competition is a lot more relaxed than it was during the Army Reserve Best Warrior competition.

"It's nice to be here at Fort McCoy," Manella said. "There are a lot of amenities to support our training. It's also isolated from other areas, which makes it easier to focus on training."

Fromm said the Army Reserve competition and preparation for the Army-level event helped him meet personnel from other military occupational specialties with whom he likely will work later in his Army career.

"We can help each other with our special skills, and we have each other's back," Fromm said. "The instructors are all drill sergeants and masters of the basic skills, so they can help us out and provide one-on-one instruction, if needed."

Silva said the preparation expands on their knowledge and proficiency in basic Soldiering skills.

"We can see every event being done right and train on it that way," Silva said. "We can take the time to repeat it and work on our weaknesses. It's not a case of one-and-done like the Best Warrior competition."

The preparation also offered a lot of hands-on training, instead of trying to read something from a book or manual and trying to do it to standard, he said. As a career counselor, he doesn't get to work on the skills as often as some of the others involved in the competition.

The training also will help advance his career and increase his confidence and credibility to provide career advice to other Soldiers.
Sharpe said training together with the other personnel pushed everyone to do their best and achieve the standards.

All of the competitors except for Fromm have been deployed so they can share that information and knowledge, as well, he said.

Staff Sgt. Daniel Starr, who is with the 428th Combat Engineers of Wausau, Wis., and Fromm's sponsor, said he volunteered to support the training and Fromm.

"I'm definitely learning things myself as we've gone through the training," Starr said.

Manzanares said the drill sergeants and the participants do not know the exact events at the Army-level competition, so the participants train on all skills possible.