Soldiers from the 16th Sustainment Brigade and the Slovenian Armed Forces Logistics Brigade competed together in the 16th Sustainment Brigade Best Warrior Competition March 7 to 11 at Baumholder.
The competition tested the aptitudes of Soldiers during events to determine the group’s top Soldier, NCO and officer of 2016. This was the second such bilateral best warrior competition.
Last year, the 16th SB sent a squad to Slovenia for the competition. This year, three Slovenians came to Baumholder to compete.
It seems a friendly rivalry is forming between the Soldiers of the two units, and according to Command Sgt. Maj. Maveric Ledbetter, 16th SB senior enlisted leader, that kind of friendly competition is good for all involved.
“This is a great opportunity for young warfighters to compete at a higher level and showcase their skills as Soldiers,” Ledbetter said. “The best of the 16th Sustainment Brigade tested our increased interoperability with the best of the Slovenian Armed Forces Logistics Brigade, which ultimately helps to build the Alliance.”
During the five-day competition, Soldiers were tested in events such as a physical fitness test, a combatives tournament, an M-4 rifle range, an oral board, an 18-kilometer ruck march, and a day and night land-navigation course.
“The Slovenians really focused on the combatives training, and it’s obvious they want to learn,” said Sgt. Dustin Crawford, a motor transport team leader with the brigade who served as an instructor and referee. “Combatives is the best kind of training to build camaraderie because the Soldiers are extremely up close and personal.”
The Slovenian’s fitness came as somewhat of a surprise to the U.S. Soldiers, as all three of them were in their late 30s and showed up their younger alliance members, placing in the top in both the Army Physical Fitness Test and the road march. They even had one Soldier max the push up event on his knuckles.
“Best Warrior is great because we can compare our training with the Americans,” said 1st Lt. Rajko Kracun, a platoon leader with the Slovenian Armed Forces Logistics Brigade. “Of course, we enjoy getting to know each other and making friends also.”
The Slovenians spoke English well and understood it better, so the one challenge that remained was conveying U.S. Army standards to the visitors.
“We like to share our experience and knowledge,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Franjo Cesar of the Slovenian Armed Forces Logistics Brigade. “On the other hand, the Americans have events that we don’t have. For example, we don’t have a combatives program or anything like an NCO board, so it was interesting to see how that’s done.”
The competition was not about trying to win but was about bringing out competitiveness and working together.
“The Slovenians are bringing out the competitive spirit in our Soldiers,” said Sgt. 1st Class Brian Perales, 16th Sustainment Brigade’s S-3 NCO in charge and the competition’s organizer. “There was a little ‘smack talk’ going on, especially after the land navigation because there was such a wide range of finishing times. Everyone wants bragging rights.”
The overall winner was 2nd Lt. Justin Ganzer from 16th Sustainment Brigade’s 106 Financial Management Support Unit.
“The competition was extremely competitive, so winning was surprising and exciting,” Ganzer said. “Also, it was great working with our Slovenian allies. Their preparation was readily evident, which allowed us to learn a lot from their training methods.”
The two units continued to build the Alliance by demonstrating skills that they could someday put to use on the battlefield.
“We’re talking about two similar brigades from allied countries in the same theater,” Cesar said. “We could easily end up somewhere together under different circumstances so it’s important to know your peer’s capabilities. And even more importantly, this competition allows us to know each other personally.”