First Sergeant Heather Buxton started day two of the I Corps’ Best Warrior Competition by racing her fellow competitors in an early morning 7-mile ruck march to the M-9 pistol range.
After Buxton, the first sergeant for the 514th Medical Company, 593rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command, arrived at the stress shoot range, she performed a series of kettle bell swings, burpees, pushups and ammo-can carries, before engaging targets with her pistol.
“Conducting these ranges allows us to test our mission readiness,” Buxton said, as she wiped a bit of sweat and grime from her cheek. “Firing these weapons after physical activities is a good simulation of what it would be like to fire a weapon in a stressful environment when deployed.”
I Corps Command Sgt. Maj. Walter Tagalicud said the four-day competition exemplified the I Corps standard and aligned with the Army’s mission to have a more complete fighting force.
“These competitors gave everything during this competition and showed how well rounded they are as Soldiers and as leaders,” Tagalicud said. “It proved that they were the best available competitors from their units. They really exhibited what they were made of.”
The Soldiers showed their grit and determination while demonstrating the Warrior Ethos: “I will always place the mission first, I will never accept defeat, I will never quit, I will never leave a fallen comrade.”
BECOMING THE BEST
The competition, held at Joint Base Lewis-McChord from May 14 to 17, tested Soldiers’ mental and physical endurance, as well as their perseverance. It featured participants from across I Corps competing for the titles of best Soldier, best noncommissioned officer, best first sergeant, best warrant officer and best officer.
The competition winners will be announced at the I Corps’ Corps Ball June 14.
In addition to the M-9 range on day two, the competitors traveled to an obstacle course and mass casualty paintball range before conducting a 7-mile road march back to their bivouac site.
During the mass casualty simulation, the competitors donned protective masks and armed themselves with paintball guns before walking into the woods of Lewis North. As loud explosions filled the air, competitors moved toward their assigned casualties.
Participants administered first aid as paintballs whizzed past their heads, occasionally making contact with a sting followed by a splash of blue paint.
Specialist Michael Krystallis, 2nd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, returned fire at opposing forces until he ran out of ammo.
“The paintball didn’t hurt as much as I thought it was going to,” Krystallis said. “It added an important aspect to casualty care. It allowed us to experience a real-world simulation of providing care under fire.”
The next day, competitors completed an Army Physical Fitness Test, M-4 carbine qualification range and land navigation. One competitor blew the rest away with a perfect score and finished the 2-mile run in less than 12 minutes.
“I really enjoyed all of the physical events — it really tests your abilities as a Soldier,” said Staff Sgt. Shawn Jenkins, 42nd Military Police Brigade. “I love how different all of the events are, but it was hard not being able to talk to my family. I really wanted to let them know what we did every day.”
The contest tested the heart of competitors from nine different units within I Corps.
Even a permanent profile couldn’t stop Sgt. 1st Class Aram Jacques from outperforming most of his fellow competitors. Entering the fourth and final day of the competition, Jacques, the Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment first sergeant of the 109th Military Intelligence Battalion, 201st Expeditionary Military Intelligence Brigade, outscored all but one other Soldier at the M-4 stress shoot.
Despite near-constant pain in his left knee from numerous injuries and subsequent surgeries, Jacques completed a 4-mile ruck march, hurled a half-dozen 45-pound sandbags into a military vehicle, flipped tires, carried water cans and pulled a weighted sled with 185 pounds before firing his weapon from four firing positions.
His was the second fastest stress shoot time among the event’s 40 competitors.
“I saw my competition in the first sergeant category and knew it was no longer my job to win — it was my job to finish,” Jacques said. “I want to show that it doesn’t matter how old you are, or how injured you are. If there is a task in front of you, it just matters how much heart you have to complete it.”