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May 13, 2011

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2011 Regional Army Reserve Best Warriors chosen at Fort McCoy

FORT McCOY, Wis. — Ten Soldiers from the 416th Theater Engineer Command (TEC), 84th Training Command and the 88th Reserve Support Command (RSC) Noncommissioned Officer (NCO) Academies competed at the 2011 Regional Army Reserve Best Warrior Competition (BWC) held here May 2-6 to represent their respective commands.

Five winners were announced at a luncheon awards banquet at the end of the week after all 10 competitors in the Regional Army Reserve BWC spent a week in various physical and mental challenges designed to push them to the limit to test their skills, knowledge and endurance.
PHOTO: Staff Sgt. Stephanie Piekarczyk of the Non-Commissioned Officer Academy at Fort Dix, N.J., participates in the 10-K road march. Photo by Spc. Cliff Coy
Staff Sgt. Stephanie Piekarczyk of the Noncommissioned Officer Academy at Fort Dix, N.J., participates in the 10-K road march during the 2011 Regional Army Reserve Best Warrior Competition. (Photo by Spc. Cliff Coy)

The 88th RSC’s NCO of the Year is Staff Sgt. Conrad H. Nazar Jr., from Loraine, Ohio. Nazar, who resides in Tomah, Wis., is a small group leader for the Warrior Leaders Course at the Staff Sgt. Todd R. Cornell NCO Academy at Fort McCoy.

The 416th TEC’s NCO of the Year is Sgt. Daniel Florez from Tucson, Ariz. Florez, who resides in Steilacoom, Wash., is an intelligence analyst assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 494th Brigade Support Battalion, 301st Maneuver Enhancement Brigade at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.

The 416th TEC’s Soldier of the Year is Spc. Yasutaka Dote from Columbia, Mo. Dote, who resides in Rolla, Mo., is a combat engineer assigned to the 383rd Engineer Company in Jonesboro, Ark.

The 84th Training Command’s NCO of the Year is Sgt. Jacob H. Probst from Watertown, Wis. Probst, who resides in Milwaukee, is a combat engineer assigned to B Company, Small Arms Readiness Group, 3rd Battalion, 329th Regiment in Milwaukee, Wis.

The 84th Training Command’s Soldier of the Year is Spc. Lefate Jones from Brooklyn, N.Y. Jones is an information systems operator assigned to the 78th Training Division at Fort Dix, N.J.

PHOTO: Sgt. 1st Class Travis S. Buckendahl (right) provides advice to Staff Sgt. Conrad H. Nazar Jr. prior to the Non-Commissioned Officer Board. Photo by Lindsey Schulte
Sgt. 1st Class Travis S. Buckendahl (right) provides advice to Staff Sgt. Conrad H. Nazar Jr. prior to the Noncommissioned Officer Board during the 2011 Regional Army Reserve Best Warrior Competition. (Photo by Spc. Lindsey Schulte)

The five winners will represent their commands at the U.S. Army Reserve Best Warrior Competition to be held at Fort McCoy in June.

The competitors represented diverse military and civilian backgrounds and experiences. Many have deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait and the Horn of Africa. Several have been decorated in combat with Bronze Star Medals and Combat Action Badges. Their career fields included infantry, military police, health care, mechanics, human resources, intelligence, public affairs, civil affairs, and engineering.

The events tested the Soldiers’ mental endurance, physical stamina and tactical reasoning abilities.

“We like to get them really tired and see how they react mentally,” explained Sgt. Major Dominick Bucci. Bucci, a member of the 416th, was this year’s BWC NCO in charge.

Eleven Soldiers arrived Sunday for in-processing and a no-host social. The grueling competition week started Monday with a 5 a.m. Army Physical Fitness Test, which eliminated one competitor, bringing the field down to 10.

“I will sleep good tonight for sure, get a good night’s rest, and come back more prepared for tomorrow,” said Spc. Brian Larner, one of four specialists competing. Larner, from Greensburg, Ind., is a member of the 478th Engineer Company, based at Camp Atterbury, Ind.

PHOTO: Spc. Lafate Jones of the 78th Training Division at Fort Dix, N.J., lifts a fellow participant during the U.S. Army combatives event. Photo by Spc. Cliff Coy
Spc. Lefate Jones of the 78th Training Division at Fort Dix, N.J., lifts a fellow participant during the U.S. Army combatives event at the 2011 Regional Army Reserve Best Warrior Competition. (Photo by Spc. Cliff Coy)

The Soldiers then appeared before a board of command sergeants major, followed by a written test and written essay.

The secret to the board, according to Sgt. 1st Class Arthur Odgers, is “staying confident and comfortable. Keep your composure and answer the question the best that you can.” Odgers, from Greensboro, N.C., currently is stationed at Regional Training Center–West at Fort Hunter Liggett, Calif.

The next morning, the competitors were tested on Army Warrior Tasks, including four ‘mystery events.’ For one of the mystery events, the Soldiers were given a plastic bin full of parts for three different weapons, and had to assemble and perform function checks on each weapon.

“I teach weapons, so I did pretty well,” said Probst.

The afternoon and evening events consisted of day and night land-navigation courses. The courses had the competitors walking over rolling terrain as well as a few steep hills.

“I’m hoping my night-nav points are on hills,” said Nazar. “Every land nav course should have hills.” Nazar, who resides in Tomah, Wis., was the first competitor to finish both the day and night land-navigation courses.

One competitor didn’t necessarily agree with Nazar.

“That terrain was a pain in the behind,” said Jones.

Day three started out with a 10-K road march while wearing Kevlar helmets, ballistic vest with plates and ruck sack totaling 65 pounds and carrying their weapons.

Odgers was the first to cross the finish line. Staff Sgt. Stephanie Piekarczyk started the road march with a taped ankle. She twisted her ankle during the land-navigation event.

PHOTO: Sgt. Daniel Florez of the 494th Brigade Support Battalion negotiates a rope bridge at the confidence course event. Photo by Spc. Cliff Coy
Sgt. Daniel Florez of the 494th Brigade Support Battalion negotiates a rope bridge at the confidence course event. (Photo by Spc. Cliff Coy)

“Physical stuff I can do. It’s just putting mind over matter,” she said. “It’s all in your heart and in your head.” She did finish the road march. Piekarczyk, from Fridley, Minn., is an instructor at the NCO Academy at Fort Dix, N.J.

Next up, range fire. The competitors headed to the range for day and night firing, followed by an obstacle course on the morning of day four.

The afternoon of day four brought the competitors to the combatives mat. Fatigue was starting to set in.

“That reversal was all I had,” said Sgt. Ryan Trickey. “I was tired from the get go.” Trickey, from Marquette, Mich., is a member of the 652nd Engineer Company.

Sgt. Daniel Florez won the match in the NCO category. Larner won the match for the Soldier category. “You just have to make it a comfort zone,” said Florez.

The Citizen-Soldiers competing in the event represent a cross-section of America.

They come from large and small communities, and have attended college or been assigned to units in dozens of other locations.

Some were born or grew up outside the United States, and others are naturalized citizens, but all of them voluntarily serve to protect all Americans and our national interests, home and abroad.

This year’s competition, like years past, tested the Soldiers’ mental endurance, physical stamina and tactical reasoning abilities — all the skills required to keep Soldiers alive in combat.

“A lot of stuff they’re doing, they do all the time,” said Bucci. “This is just wrapping it all together.”

(Submitted by the 416th TEC/84th Training Command PAO Team.)

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