GRAFENWOEHR, Germany — The U.S. Army Europe and 21st Theater Sustainment Command senior enlisted leaders unveiled the region’s top troops as the 2016 European Best Warrior Competition reached a thrilling climax before an enthusiastic audience of over 200 Soldiers, leaders and distinguished visitors Aug. 11 at the Tower Barracks Physical Fitness Center, Grafenwoehr.
First Lt. Kendall Ward, 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), captured top honors among officers.
Staff Sgt. Ethan Rodgers, 7th Army Training Command, outlasted eight other noncommissioned officers to claim the NCO crown.
Spc. Daniel Guenther, 7th ATC, topped five other troops to earn superlative Soldier honors in a sensational showing for the home-station training command.
Conquering enlisted candidates earned not only continental bragging rights but also an opportunity to represent USAREUR during the Department of the Army Best Warrior Competition slated for Sept. 26 to Oct. 3 at Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia. The junior officer competition culminates at command level.
“I’m tremendously excited to represent USAREUR, my brigade and my battalion at this level,” said Ward, a platoon leader who serves with the Vicenza, Italy-based 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment. “I need more than two hands to count the great officers who could’ve been selected and performed just as well. It’s an honor and a privilege to represent our brigade and our Soldiers across Italy in this event.”
The Hohenfels, Germany-based 7th ATC competitors performed exceptionally well on their home training turf.
“I was surprised when they announced my name,” said Guenther, a fire team leader with 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment. “You really didn’t know who would win until the very end. The unit has been training me nonstop the last two months to get ready. They’ve done a great job helping Staff Sgt. Rodgers and I prepare, so I feel pretty good about our prospects at the DA competition.”
“It’s been a thrilling experience to test my mettle against other great NCOs across Army Europe,” added Rodgers, a weapons squad leader with the 1-4th Infantry. “We’re going to study hard, train hard and come out to win.”
The competitors endured a week of remorseless activity that strained stamina, will and nerves, not to mention muscles and limbs, to their breaking point. The weary benefited from little rest, less sleep and practically no respite during waking hours from a relentless sequence of competitive tasks beginning shortly after their arrival at Camp Aachen.
The first two days included such events as uniform inspections, checks and administrative activities, written tests, an Army Physical Fitness Test, an obstacle course, urban combat lanes, marksmanship, medical evacuation and land navigation. The final day of the competition began with a grueling 12-mile ruck march and culminated with a combatives tournament.
Organizers described the competition as deliberately comprehensive, even intentionally overwhelming.
“The competition tests every possible Soldier quality,” said Master Sgt. Patrick Superales, 21st TSC headquarters and lead event organizer. “The candidates have to be physically fit. They have to be proficient in the full range of Soldier skills. They have to know policy, regulations and doctrine. They have to know and live the Army Values. It takes much more than strength and endurance, although that’s a prerequisite. When we say ‘Best Warrior’ it encompasses everything; it means being the very best of Soldiers and leaders in every way, across the board.”
Command Sgt. Maj. Sheryl Lyon, USAREUR and European Best Warrior Competition senior enlisted leader, described the event as a triumph not only for candidates but also for the organizations that developed them.
“These competitors didn’t get here by themselves,” Lyon said. “They were recommended by their organizations. They had supervisors who encouraged them. They had trainers and mentors who prepared them. They had fellow Soldiers and families who encouraged them. It’s a team effort that says a lot about not only the competitors but the organizations that brought them here.”
Rodgers and Guenther will need all the pride, determination, stamina and skill, not to mention luck, they can muster when they face off against 10 champions from an equal number of commands and direct reporting units across the Army at the end of September. DA organizers choose from 27 potential evaluated events without prior notice, forcing candidates to prepare diligently for all of them.