FORT LEE, Va. — The Army Best Warrior competition wrapped up Friday with board appearances for all competitors and an awards banquet on post. But before that, soldiers were put to the test in the "mystery event."
The event faced some significant changes this year in part due to the competition's compressed schedule. Budgetary constraints also affected the competition. The changes were related to the partial government shutdown that delayed the competition by about a month.
This year, soldiers were tested on some foundational aspects of being a soldier. This included skills learned in basic training, critical thinking and problem solving skills in a series of tasks on a Leadership Reaction Course.
The course — a series of six challenges — pitted each competitor against an obstacle with the assistance of three soldiers from nearby Fort Eustis to help.
For the first challenge soldiers, needed to move a barrel and all soldiers over a pit using a rope. A chain and section of pipe were also available for use. There were different ways that soldiers could solve the problem or complete the task in each challenge.
"We needed to do it so that it was extremely competitive and challenging and also at a reduced cost," said Sergeant Major of the Army Raymond Chandler. "I think that the decisions we made have enhanced the competition as compared to last year."
Chandler also said the Leadership Reaction Course is a way to focus the soldier competitors on what has become a critical part of the Army over the last couple of years — critical and creative thinking.
In addition to the Leadership Reaction Course, competitors also had to demonstrate basic soldier knowledge which included: the manual of arms and donning nuclear, biological and chemical protective gear — something soldiers may have not reviewed since basic training.
Chandler said that over the past 12 years, there has been less emphasis on the proper use of NBC protective gear given the nature of the deployments for soldiers. "As we've come out of Afghanistan, we're being faced with a lot of threats and this was a great way to see where we stand with a group of 24 people, to give us a sense of how we're doing in that area," Chandler said. "It's been part of our Army for decades, but when you know where you're headed and you have a list of things you need to train on in order to be deployed, if that's not important for where you're headed then you've got to use your time to meet the requirements to go. This is a basic training requirement."
The importance of the emphasis on critical and creative thinking comes down to teamwork. "They have to go through the different events with someone that they've never met before, and try and figure out how to solve a problem," Chandler said. "That is still providing us feedback on how we're doing on creating more adaptive, agile, critical thinkers."
Chandler said that there has been more emphasis placed on allowing the competitors to work through the events on their own timeline over the last two years of the competition.
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