CASCOM Ultimate Warrior Competition tests soldier skills

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Sgt. 1st Class Naira Frazier was in a much lighter mood when the day was over.

"I am exhausted," said the Logistics Noncommissioned Officer Academy soldier, offering up a smile after a long day.

Those signs of relief were in stark contrast to a few hours earlier when the soldier was entrenched in a get-it-done mind set while fireman-carrying a male soldier to medical attention and swearing in frustration along the way and afterward.

"He might have been 180 pounds, and I’m 125 soaking wet," she said at a classroom gathering point.

Adding, "That was very challenging for me, very physical."

Frazier was one of 14 soldiers who faced the challenges and burdens of the fourth CASCOM Ultimate Warrior Competition, a three-day soldier skills showcase.

She, like many of her fellow competitors, was beaten into a state of humility by the sheer difficulty of the event’s second day of competition.

"It was an outstanding event," she said after the completion of the Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills portion of the contest.

"It was realistic training. It made us think on our feet, and it was very rigorous and physical," she added.

Ultimate Warrior is a combined competition that selects the soldier and NCO of the year, as well as the instructor, retention NCO and advanced individual platoon sergeants of the year.

The winners will advance to the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command’s Best Warrior Competition.

The winners of that competition will advance to the Department of the Army Best Warrior event that takes place at Fort Lee in October.

This week’s competition brought together competitors from throughout CASCOM to include the Ordnance School’s 59th Ordnance Brigade, the Quartermaster School’s 23rd Quartermaster Brigade, the Libby Noncommissioned Officer Academy and the Soldier Support Institute at Fort Jackson, S.C.

A physical training test, board appearance, land navigation and medical evacuation were among the events featured.

The first day’s challenge was a fairly light in comparison to the others.

Soldiers completed a day and night land navigation in wooded areas using a compass, not a GPS as most are accustomed to.

The second day was by far the most challenging of Ultimate Warrior Competition, beginning in the early morning hours with a PT test that was anything but normal, requiring soldiers to complete it in their duty uniforms and sneakers but without headgear.

Most were thrown off because PT in uniform is highly unusual.

"The PT test blew my mind," said the 23rd Quartermaster Brigade's contestant, Staff Sgt. Shaun McKoy.

Adding, "It was a game-changer. You didn’t know ahead of time that you were going to do a PT test. You were just driven to a location, dropped off, grounded our gear and got ready for the event. We took the test in ACUs, so it was different than all the other times we’ve taken it."

The PT test served as a bellwether and pushed the contestants into a state of readiness for the unexpected.

A small arms weapons qualification and a 45-minute essay that took place at the Fort Lee range complex followed this event.

Soldiers were then required to walk to another location where they encountered groups of Southwest Asian role players at a village. There, they were confronted by victims of a chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear attack and had to respond accordingly.

From the CBRN testing, soldiers walked roughly two miles down muddy roads, receiving instructions that they needed to secure airdropped cargo.

Soldiers had to follow the protocol for performing such a task.

The next event led them into a clearing where simulated explosions and cries of help echoed.

The competitors had to determine whether the victims were friend or foe and then render medical attention as needed.

"It wasn’t so much the evaluation of the casualty," Sgt. Kasie Yarter, from the 23rd Quartermaster Brigade, said, "It was moving [the casualty] from this point to that point with all the gear."

Like Frazier, Yarter was able to move the casualty to the endpoint – more than 100 yards from where he lay injured.

She paid for it later, saying afterward, "I was happy the event was over."

The last two events were conducted in the range complex classrooms.

Soldiers completed an exam and the Mystery Event, the Ultimate Warrior’s traditionally undisclosed conclusion of the soldier skills phase.

It required soldiers to arrange a mock board of uniform skill badges, ribbons and awards in the proper order.

On the third day, soldiers appeared before a board of noncommissioned officers.

Even before the event was over, many of the soldiers raved about how the competition was run and how it challenged them.

"It was spectacular," Staff Sgt. Gregory Stepankiw, from the 59th Ordnance Brigade, said.

Adding, "It was very well put together. It couldn’t have been more challenging. The events were spot-on with everything we do in combat training. Overall, I would give it an ‘A.’"

Staff Sgt. Tyrone Campbell, from the Libby Noncommissioned Officer Academy agreed and added that it exceeded his expectations.

"I competed last year, so I expected it to be maybe the same or just a little different," he said.

"But it was totally different. Most of the time you didn’t know what was expected, what was next. It challenged your mind and body, pushing me to limits I’ve never reached before," he added.

The soldiers estimated they covered more than 16 miles of walking during the three days of competition. (Based on a story by T. Anthony Bell.)