By Spc. Bryan M. Faison
18th Medical Command (Deployment Support),
Eleven Soldiers from the 18th Medical Command (Deployment Support), also known as 18th MEDCOM (DS) saw their hard work and preparation put on display to become the 18th MEDCOM (DS) 2017 best warrior.
For four days, from February 7-10, non-commissioned officers (NCOs) and junior enlisted Soldiers, battled the Oahu elements and pushed their minds and bodies to the limit.
“Breaking the service members down both physically and mentally during the four days showed a test of might and showed who could endure and tolerate…furthermore, it displayed loyalty and personal courage to stay in the competition and conduct events in which they knew nothing about until they were briefed moments prior,” said Sgt. 1st Class Nicholas M. Hanley, the NCO in charge of this year’s competition.
The Soldiers began day one with a morning physical fitness test at Fort Shafter gym. Unlike the Army physical fitness test, the best warrior fitness challenge included pull-ups, a shuttle run, push-ups, and a variety of physical challenges designed to test physical endurance and mental agility. With little time to recover, the Soldiers loaded themselves and their fully packed ruck sacks into the back of a light medium tactical vehicle (LMTV), to be transported to Schofield Barracks for their next event.
A two-mile hike separated them from their arrival point at Schofield Barracks area X-ray and their destination, a mystery event, the personal protective mask confidence course.
For some Soldiers, their first and only exposure to CS gas was during initial entry training.
“It was different, a much needed training event”, said Sgt. Roderick L. Carmichael Jr., a communications NCO for 18th MEDCOM (DS). “Reacting to that environment is something we should all be prepared to do, you never know,” he added.
Day one was eventful and taxing for the participants, but with night approaching and temperatures dropping into the mid-60’s, East Range was the site of their last event for day one, night land navigation.
The competitors were given three hours to navigate the terrain and find a series of points during the hours of darkness before another hike and transportation back to Fort Shafter.
With only a few hours of rest, the competitors put their muscular endurance and a possible fear of heights to the test as they tackled the air assault obstacle course on Schofield Barracks.
“It was somewhat difficult based on my size, I didn’t let it stop me. It was a lot of fun,” said Pfc. Darlene P. Malanog, a signal system support specialist with 18th MEDCOM (DS).
Over the years, the Army warrior tasks (AWT) lanes have become the most dreaded of events during the Best Warrior Competition.
It is the event that separates Soldiers that participated to simply compete and those there to win.
“The challenge for CADRE, is that every year our Soldiers get stronger and smarter, so we are constantly increasing the intensity and realism of training to give our Soldiers the best opportunity to be successful,” said the NCOIC of the AWT lanes, Sgt. 1st Class John D. Brown.
The event featured a 180-pound simulated casualty that needed to be identified, treated, and evacuated.
Maneuvering the simulated casualty on a sked stretcher proved to be the toughest of tasks for even the strongest of individuals.
“Pulling a 180-pound casualty on a sked, up hills, with a full ruck sack, after the air assault course was very difficult,” said Pfc. Harish D. Rao, a supply specialist with 18th MEDCOM (DS).
The physical demands of the two events took their toll but the lanes also tested the Soldier’s ability to maintain their composure in stressful situations by requiring the competitors to interact with media and answer a variety of thought provoking questions immediately after engaging in a stressful situation.
“I was exhausted, but I knew it was a challenge. I was thirsty and tired but I knew I had to answer these questions correctly and on the spot,” said Sgt. Yanique K. Morris, a culinary arts NCO for 18th MEDCOM (DS).
Following two days of grueling physical exertion, the Soldiers faced the daunting task of presenting themselves before the sergeant’s major board.
The board consisted of three staff sergeant’s major and Command Sgt. Maj. John Braham Jr., the president of the board.
As one group participated in the board, the other group conducted the day land navigation course at the Schofield Barracks East Range.
The competitors were only given a one hour break for lunch and reset before trading locations and transitioning to the opposite event.
When asked about the make-up of the board, Rao said, “I was nervous before and after, I’ve never been in a board, in front of so many sergeants major, all asking me questions.”
Day four featured the competitions culminating event, a timed 6-mile rucksack march on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam that began nearly two hours before dawn.
Carrying a 35-pound ruck sack, Soldiers had one hour and 30 minutes to complete the final phase of the competition.
The previous three days of competition had taken its toll but did not slow down the first Soldier to finish, Sgt. Jeffrey S. Salinas, the units theatre patient movement control (TPMC) NCO. Salinas finished in 1 hour and 6 seconds.
“I was starting to cramp up, I really wanted to get it done as fast as I possibly could,” said Salinas.
Sgt. Roderick J. Carmichael and Pfc. Harish D. Rao were announced as the winners of the 2017 Best Warrior Competition during a ceremony held at the unit.
The winners now prepare to compete against Soldiers from across the region in Regional Health Command – Pacific’s best warrior competition.
“I expect it to be challenging and look forward to seeing how I stack up against my peers,” said Carmichael.
Rao, echoed his sentiments and added “It will be tough and I expect to learn more about myself as I compete against Soldiers from across the region.”