BY STAFF SGT. ROBERT LARSON
181st Multifunctional Training Brigade Public Affairs
Five of the top Soldiers from First Army, two from Division East, and three from Division West came together April 23 to compete for the title of First Army Best Warrior.
The four-day event, which took place at Fort McCoy, challenged the competitors’ physical and mental fitness through a variety of demanding challenges and Army skills tests.
Unique to First Army, all five competitors are observer coach/trainers (OC/T) and noncommissioned officers tasked with training U.S. Army Reserve and National Guard partner units to meet training readiness requirements. All five had already been through two previous levels of the competition, having competed at the brigade and division level to reach the First Army-level competition at Fort McCoy.
The events were designed to test their physical and mental limits, including a 25-mile land-navigation course, 6-mile road march, a stress shoot, a written exam, an on-camera interview, and a formal board.
All the competitors expressed a desire to be the best and better themselves personally, but Sgt. 1st Class Kevin Tracy, an OC/T with 177th Armored Brigade, Division East, said it was also about showing his fellow Soldiers that anyone can perform at this level.
“I need to stay on my ‘A’ game for the needs of combat,” said Tracy. “Being physically and mentally tough is a big portion of our job. I’m almost 40, so I believe that by doing this, I can show all the younger ranks that it doesn’t matter how old you are, what rank you are, you should always be able to compete at a high level.”
Staff Sgt. Brett Edelman, a 5th Armored Brigade, Division West OC/T, said competing in this competition was also about pride and family.
“I do things like this to set the example for my Soldiers, but what ultimately drives me is my family,” said Edelman.
“That’s why I wear the uniform every day; that’s why I serve. We all have our reason for why we are in the military — mine is my family.”
Sgt. 1st Class Mark Padfield, an OC/T with 174th Infantry Division, Division East, said the competition helped him push himself and to push the other competitors.
“You always want to strive to be better. That person beside you is who is going to push you to be better,” said Padfield.
“I can only push myself so far, but that guy that I’m pushing against, he’s going to push me, too.”
After three days of mental and physical challenges, the competition came down to the Command Sergeants Major board on the final day.
“These NCOs are mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually ready for the rigors of sustained multi-domain combat,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Todd Sims, First Army’s senior noncommissioned officer. “This competition is unique for these competitors because they are OC/Ts and take their experiences here back to their Reserve and National Guard counterparts.”
Staff Sgt. Joshua Rice, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West, was named the 2019 First Army Best Warrior and will next compete at the U.S. Army Forces Command competition in August. Staff Sgt. Brandon High, 181st Multi-Functional Training Brigade, Division West, was the runner-up.