GRAFENWÖHR, Germany — Twelve men volunteered, six men passed the initial cuts, but only three of the Joint Multinational Training Command’s soldiers are moving on to the next level in the U.S. Army’s Best Warrior competition.
Pvt. Benjamin Ranew, Staff Sgt. William Chavis and 1st Lt. Mitchell Messick conquered three days of physical and mental challenges and will now compete against troops from across Europe at the USAREUR level.
Out of the pool of contenders, only two — one junior enlisted soldier and one noncommissioned officer — will be selected to represent USAREUR at the 13th annual all-Army competition at Fort Lee, Va., later this year. Messick, now the 7th Army JMTC Officer of the Year, will have to be content fighting to being recognized as the top junior officer at the USAREUR level, as there is no officer category at the all-Army competition. He’ll also be the JMTC team leader at USAREUR.
Ranew, Chavis and Messick will be joined by representatives from each of the 12 major Army commands, including the National Guard and Special Operations Command. The winners of that all-Army competition will receive accolades, awards and invitations to big-ticket social events.
“You always got to do things that set yourself apart from your peers,” Chavis, the 7th Army Noncommissioned Officer of the Year, said on the opening day of the JMTC competition. “Whoever wins, it doesn’t really matter — you still get the training value.”
The initial six competitors ran through a rapid succession of events, including simulated medical evacuation battlefield scenarios, a sergeants major inspection board, an early morning eight-mile march and a bevy of live-fire drills designed to test their knowledge of weapons systems.
“The events themselves altogether were challenging but isolated and on their own; it was great because for everything we worked as a team,” Messick said. “So you always had other guys you could fall back on to help push you, and you could help push them when it looked like they were struggling.”
The trio now face some of Europe’s finest soldiers at the USAREUR-level event to be held Sept. 15-19 in Grafenwöhr.
The most recent winner from USAREUR was Staff Sgt. Matthew Senna, who took home top honors in the NCO category in 2012.
Sgt. Maj. Tony Tuck, the JMTC operations and training sergeant major, said his soldiers have a real shot at bringing the title back to USAREUR.
“They have the mentality that they can go into the European Best Warrior competition and accomplish whatever task they throw at them,” he said.
Last year, Sgt. 1st Class Jason Manella from U.S. Army Reserve Command and Spc. Adam Christensen from U.S. Army Pacific Command took home the top honors as noncommissioned officer of the year and soldier of the year, respectively.
“I don’t know much about the USAREUR level of competition,” Ranew said. “I know there is a lot more competitors from all over the place who have been training probably a lot more than I have, so I’m going to go up there, give what I got, and hopefully it’s enough.”