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Spc. Shawn Ladyman, right, followed by Spc. Christopher Latona, Spc. David Morales and Pfc. Brandon Jefferson, all members of 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, rush to the aid of Spc. Michelle Juneau on Wednesday during the first aid portion of the first Sky Soldier Competition at Camp Robertson near Schweinfurt, Germany.

Spc. Shawn Ladyman, right, followed by Spc. Christopher Latona, Spc. David Morales and Pfc. Brandon Jefferson, all members of 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, rush to the aid of Spc. Michelle Juneau on Wednesday during the first aid portion of the first Sky Soldier Competition at Camp Robertson near Schweinfurt, Germany. (Dan Blottenberger / S&S)

Spc. Shawn Ladyman, right, followed by Spc. Christopher Latona, Spc. David Morales and Pfc. Brandon Jefferson, all members of 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, rush to the aid of Spc. Michelle Juneau on Wednesday during the first aid portion of the first Sky Soldier Competition at Camp Robertson near Schweinfurt, Germany.

Spc. Shawn Ladyman, right, followed by Spc. Christopher Latona, Spc. David Morales and Pfc. Brandon Jefferson, all members of 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, rush to the aid of Spc. Michelle Juneau on Wednesday during the first aid portion of the first Sky Soldier Competition at Camp Robertson near Schweinfurt, Germany. (Dan Blottenberger / S&S)

A team of 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team soldiers continue a long road march Wednesday during the first Sky Soldier Competition at Camp Robertson near Schweinfurt, Germany. During the competition the soldiers had to complete a total of 12 miles on foot.

A team of 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team soldiers continue a long road march Wednesday during the first Sky Soldier Competition at Camp Robertson near Schweinfurt, Germany. During the competition the soldiers had to complete a total of 12 miles on foot. (Dan Blottenberger / S&S)

SCHWEINFURT, Germany - Thirty teams representing every company of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team took to the training grounds at Camp Robertson near Schweinfurt on Wednesday to begin one of the hardest competitions in their military careers.

At the end of the day, only four soldiers stood out among their peers. Staff Sgt. Gary Newton, Sgt. Joshua Eaton, Sgt. Matthew Young and Spc. Daniel Cruz, all representing Company A, 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment out of Vicenza, Italy, earned the title of Sky Soldier Competition champions of 2009.

Teams had traveled from Vicenza, Schweinfurt and Bamberg, Germany, for the competition. "In my five years with the brigade this was by far the hardest competition that we have had to do," said Young, speaking on behalf of his four-man fire team.

A lot of combat experience was put into the preparation of the competition. Almost the entire cadre had served multiple tours in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The competition, the first of its kind for the brigade, pushed soldiers to their limits during nine events that tested combat-related skills and challenged the soldiers’ physical and mental abilities in battlefieldlike scenarios.

At each station, soldiers were challenged in areas of physical training, evaluating casualties, how to operate communications systems, weapon functions, weapon assemblies and disassemblies, land navigation, brigade history, a stress shoot at the firing range and the proper harnessing of a ruck sack for an equipment jump from an aircraft. Soldiers also had to hike between testing stations — a total of 12 miles — as part of the competition.

"This competition helps us reinforce the most important tasks as we prepare to go to war," said Col. James Johnson, brigade commander.

Soldiers were tested on skills that will keep them alive in combat.

"We always say "Attack Company" is No. 1, and today we were able to prove it," said Young.

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