Story by SGT Andrew McNeil on 09/17/2019FORT BRAGG, N.C. The sun cut through the leafy canopy of a North Carolina wood line illuminating a map on the ground. It was made with lines in the dirt, sticks and other scraps. A spent smoke grenade represented the building where a casualty needed assistance. Soldiers with live rounds in hand were to escort two engineers through a series of obstacles where they had to engage hostile targets and rescue the casualty.
This fictional scenario was the last test the Soldiers and non-commissioned officers needed to complete for the day, as they were competing for the title of United States Army Forces Commands' Best Warrior and NCO 2019. The competition ran from August 16-22 and tested these Soldiers and NCOs mentally and physically.
At this point in the competition, August 20, 2019, the 15 participants had already spent the last 48 hours of the competition trudging through the swamps and rough terrain of Fort Stewart, Georgia, where they were tested on land navigation, maneuvering tactics and were pushed to the physical edge.
Tired and drenched in sweat, Spc. David Chambers was briefed on what he had to do to complete the lane. Wearing full body armor and having already ran through a medical lane which tested his ability to provide care under fire in the 90 plus degree weather, Chambers kneeled and listened to the instructions while sipping water.
One of the event graders handed Chambers magazines, one for his M9 pistol and another for his M4 carbine, filled with live rounds. Chambers stood up and loaded his weapons with a newfound sense of energy.
"After being handed those rounds, I felt the fatigue begin to dissipate and the excitement take over," Chambers said. "I was able to block out everything and focus on the mission at hand."
Chambers, a Sugar Land, Texas, native, is a fire team leader assigned to Crazy Horse Troop, 1st Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, at Fort Hood, Texas. His experience as an infantryman showed as he completed the lane. He bounded, dropped for cover and fired on the moving targets with the fluidity of a high-quality time piece. Every movement was efficient and served a purpose.
"That was the most exciting thing about the competition," Chambers said. "Being able to move and take down targets was exhilarating."
Of the 15 participants, Chambers' competitors had a bit of a head start on him. He was testing his Army knowledge and tactical skills as the competitor with the least amount of time in service at 18 months. Prior to enlisting, Chambers was a student at Texas A&M.
While going to school, Chambers crossed paths with students who were veterans. Seeing how those individuals acted and carried themselves, he developed an admiration for them, Chambers said. Wanting to share in the brotherhood of military service, he enlisted during the winter break before his last semester of school.
"I have the rest of my life to sit behind a desk," Chambers said. "Physically you only have so many years at your peak performance, and this is my time to give back and make a difference serving my country."
He graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering in May 2018 and about a month later was shipped to basic combat training. His military career quickly went from a crawl, to a walk, and then a sprint. Once he arrived at Fort Benning, Georgia, for basic training and one-station unit training, Chambers was randomly chosen to test the Army's 22-week one-station unit training training cycle instead of doing the standard 14-week cycle.
After completing his training, Chambers went to Fort Hood to serve in a mechanized infantry regiment. There he quickly developed strong bonds with his peers and leadership, said Sgt. Donald Berger, an infantry squad leader assigned to Crazy Horse Troop, 1/3CR. Seeing the drive and potential in Chambers, Berger took him and started molding him into the best Soldier he could be.
"We saw great potential in him, so we wanted to put him on the chopping block," Berger said. "And honestly, I've never seen a Soldier like him."
Berger said the 1/3 CR team played a key role in preparing Chambers to win his way up the ladder to compete for the title of FORSCOM Best Warrior 2019.
Chambers is a determined and disciplined Soldier, Berger said. Chambers would go to the gym and study regulations and doctrine in his free time. Seeing this motivated his NCO, Berger, to continue pushing his young trooper.
Having completed the mission of becoming FORSCOM Best Warrior 2019, Chambers is focusing on competing at the Department of the Army level. His primary goal for now is to continue to represent the 3rd Cavalry Regiment, Fort Hood and now FORSCOM at the highest levels, Chambers said.
"I just want to make everyone who believed in me proud," Chambers said, "and not let them down."