July 23, 2012
By T. Anthony Bell
FORT LEE, Va. -- Expect this year's Best Warrior Competition to be a pulse-quickening, gut-wrenching affair.
That's the vision Command Sgt. Maj. James E. Riddick has in mind for the Department of the Army
Noncommissioned Officer and Soldier of the Year contest that will play out over a four-day period, Oct. 15-18 at Fort Lee.
"I'm looking forward to a great event," said the Combined Arms Support Command's top enlisted Soldier and event coordinator during a Best Warrior walk-thru for the event Monday. "It will be really competitive."
Best Warrior is a Sergeant Major of the Army-directed training and showcase event in which Soldiers and noncommissioned officers, known as NCOs, from the Army's major commands test their skills against one another in subject areas that include field tactics and tasks, written exams, board interviews and the Army Physical Fitness Test.
The winner is scheduled to be announced at the Association of the U.S. Army
awards ceremony in Washington, D.C., the following week.
Sgt. 1st Class Randall Reed, the Best Warrior planning cell NCO in charge, reiterated what Riddick said about the competitiveness of the event but added it will be unlike any of the past 10 Best Warrior editions.
"It will be a high-paced competition that will challenge and surprise the competitors with events we haven't seen in previous years," he said, noting he isn't at liberty to disclose specifics about events or scenarios.
Reed said the new face of the event is largely the vision of Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III, presiding over his second Best Warrior. Last year's competition featured a format that had been used the previous three years, but Reed said Chandler has had a heavier hand in shaping this year's contest, using recent changes in Army training and doctrine as a guide.
"The SMA's guidance has been that the events should be changed and that they reflect the training and tactics of the new Army," he said.
Best Warrior underwent major changes in 2006 when several Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills were added to what was essentially a board competition. Less significant changes have occurred each year since. This year's changes include a reduction of the competition days from five to four, said Reed.
"The competition will be shortened in duration but feature the same type of events," he said, "so from wake up to bedtime, they're going to be challenged."
Most of the time savings during the course of the event will come from the instructional block, typically the second or third day of the competition that is reserved for familiarizing the contestants with the use weapons, tactics and techniques that may not be accessible or available to them at their home stations.
"There will be less downtime and instruction," said Reed in reference to this year's Best Warrior. "The contestants will be the best of the best. They're supposed to have all the required training prior to their arrival here."
Another change for this year's competition can be blamed on logistics. Fort Lee's small arms ranges are undergoing renovation and won't be completed until after the event. As a result, the weapons qualifications and other range events will take place using the Engagement Skills Trainer and Reconfigurable Vehicle Tactical Trainer simulation facilities, said Reed.
Other changes include rearranging the order of events. Moving the board competition from the first day to the last day is the most noteworthy adjustment in that respect, said Reed.
All in all, Reed said the competition will more than retain its reputation for being an event that is suited to the total Soldier.
"The competition is set up to determine the best, well-rounded Soldiers," he said, "not the smartest, fastest or quickest person and not the best at doing the Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills. The best, well-rounded Soldiers will win the competition."