GALLERY | Soldiers test their mettle in annual Best Warrior Competition
May 24, 2016
BAUMHOLDER, Germany — Sitting in front of a board of sergeant majors and answering questions about Army regulations was a breeze for Sgt. Chasidy Tenison, one of 15 soldiers testing her mettle in the 21st Theater Sustainment Command’s Best Warrior Competition.
The real push came on the rolling hills and grassy firing ranges of Baumholder, where the 27-year-old Tenison is based as a preventive health specialist.
“A lot of push-ups, carrying five-gallon water containers and low crawling” while “in full gear, in elbow pads, in knee pads, with a weapon,” she said, describing some of the physical demands of the competition.
“It’s been quite a challenge,” Tenison said Monday.
The 21st TSC pulled out all the stops in its annual competition to find the finest soldiers, putting three women and 12 men from its various units through a rigorous three days of field and academic tests — on little sleep, rations of Meals, Ready to Eat, and zero coffee.
Candidates competed in small-arms target shooting, emergency first aid, combatives and a 12-mile, pre-dawn march with 35 pounds on their back, among other events.
But the competition was more than about being accurate with an M9 pistol or knowing how to perform first aid.
Organizers pushed the soldiers to physical and mental exhaustion, to see how they reacted under stress, and added a few surprises to the mix, to see how they responded to the unexpected.
“We’re trying to develop our young leaders to be able to think,” said 21st TSC Command Sgt. Major Stan Richards. “We can’t possibly prepare them for every situation that they might face out there, but if we can train them to think, to analyze the information that they have and make good decisions under stress or pressure, now we’ve got a group of young leaders that’s going to be the future of our Army.”
The command selected the winners late Tuesday. The top junior officer was 2nd Lt. Justin Ganzer, executive officer of the 16th Sustainment Brigade’s 106th Financial Management Support Unit; Sgt. Vanessa Carrillo, a heavy vehicle driver with the 515th Transportation Company, 39th Transportation Battalion, was named the best noncommissioned officer; and Spc. Gerardo Gonzalez Carbone, a military policeman with the 709th Military Police Battalion, 18th Military Police Brigade, took top honors in the soldier (junior enlisted) category.
Those individuals, along with a runner-up in each category, will compete at the U.S. Army in Europe Best Warrior Competition slated for August in Grafenwoehr.
The soldiers had to win similar competitions in their units to qualify for the 21st TSC contest.
Gonzalez Carbone said he was competing to challenge himself. Despite the dizzying pace, he was yet to tire, he said Monday afternoon. “I feel great.”
Pfc. Joshua Parkinson, 22, a parachute rigger with the 5th Quarter Master Company at Rhine Ordnance Barracks, said he was competing “to try and prove to myself that I can excel in any area.”
He also wanted to debunk the notion “that privates are only good for following orders and nothing else.”
Competition has been intense, Parkinson said, starting with the first day Sunday when in-processing began at 7 a.m. Soldiers didn’t rest until lights out at 11 p.m.
“At the end of the day, when we all thought we were done, they told us to change, to get into (physical training) gear and they proceeded to give us another physical event,” he said.
Soldiers had to wake up Monday by 3 a.m. for the next round.
The early wake-up call tested the soldiers’ ability to focus on mental and physical tasks while sleep deprived, said Sgt. Maj. Jerry Henshaw, the 21st TSC enlisted leader for operations.
“When you’re in combat or a lot of time, when we’re in training, a lot of times you don’t get the standard eight hours of sleep,” he said.
The command enlisted 86 support personnel to help run the event, including Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Dodds, who coordinated an extremely demanding obstacle course on Range 7.
Soldiers, weighed down by 50 pounds of gear, had to move three 35-pound blocks about 20 meters, low crawl for another 20 meters, pick up a 30-pound water can and sprint to the firing line to test their accuracy with an M4 rifle.
“My intent was to get them tired, to weaken their arms, to get them stressed,” Dodds said. “Then score them on a range that requires accuracy.”
After completing Dodds’ course, Tenison sat for a few minutes to catch her breath.
She meant to time herself on the course, but “I was so tired, I didn’t even stop my watch,” she said.
Despite the fatigue, she said she was glad for the experience “so next time when I push my soldiers to do it, I can say, ‘I’ve done it, so you can do it.’”