This year's 'Best Warrior' tests will be based on actual combat incidents
New events for this year's Best Warrior Competition will come from the experiences of operational advisors deployed around the world by the Asymmetric Warfare Group, the lead organizer said Sept. 25, 2019.
The competition will take place Oct. 6-11, 2019, at Forts Lee and A.P. Hill, Virginia, with 22 competitors from the Army's major commands and components vying for Soldier of the Year and NCO of the Year. Winners will be announced at the Association of the U.S. Army's Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington, D.C., Oct. 14, 2019.
A small Asymmetric Warfare Group detachment at Fort A.P. Hill has been preparing for the competition since February 2019 under the leadership of 1st Sgt. Hunter Conrad.
Conrad served as an AWG operational advisor for three years, undergoing half a dozen deployments to nations such as Senegal, Uganda, Somalia and Tunisia. He also served for a year on AWG's Leadership Development Troop, teaching brigade combat teams how to operate in a subterranean environment.
The competition's events, though, don't just come from his experiences; they're based on real-world situations observed by operational advisors across all combatant commands, he said.
Spc. Hunter Olson, Maryland National Guard, dominates a water survival event involving a 100-meter swim in full uniform at the 2019 Region II Best Warrior Competition.
(Photo by aj. Kurt M. Rauschenberg)
"It's been a team effort," Conrad said, and that doesn't just stop with the preparations. A team of about 15 soldiers from First U.S. Army at Rock Island Arsenal, Illinois, will be joining his detachment to conduct the competition.
Another 20 or so soldiers from AWG at Fort Meade, Maryland, will be going to A.P. Hill to help run the competition, he said, and a handful from the Army Medical Command will also be there.
Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael A. Grinston went to Fort A.P. Hill September 2019 for a validation and mission rehearsal of the competition. He made minor course corrections, Conrad said, based on his preference for enhanced, realistic training.
"The Best Warrior Competition is the essence of what we want to accomplish," Grinston said. "We want to enhance Army readiness by building cohesive teams who are highly trained, disciplined and physically fit. Cohesive teams are the key to winning on any battlefield."
In order to enhance the realism, Conrad spent hours studying after-action reports that describe recent incidents around the world that tested the combat proficiency of soldiers. Many of those incidents will be re-created for the competition.
The competition actually begins at Fort Lee with the new Army Combat Fitness Test. Then competitors depart for the operational phase of Best Warrior at Fort A.P. Hill. There they will be tested on various soldier skills as part of a fictional combatant command scenario, Conrad said.
Every year, different skill level 1 tasks are tested, he said, in order to keep competitors guessing. They don't know ahead of time what skills will be assessed, or in what order, so Conrad said they must be proficient in all of them.
Competitors won't be able to "just memorize the sequence of events and perform them in a sterile environment," like they do in warrior task testing lanes at many units, he said.
Spc. Collin George, U.S. Army Reserve Soldier of the Year, reassebles an M240B machine gun with his eyes covered during a crew-served weapons class at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, Aug. 14, 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. Kevin Long)
"We actually try to place them in a real-world scenario and grade them on their ability to execute the same tasks in a more stressful, realistically-simulated environment," he said.
Last year the operational phase of the competition began with a ruck march in the dark carrying 50 pounds of gear. The initial event will be different this year, but Conrad added competitors "can expect to exert themselves physically."
Additionally, Grinston noted, as the Army continues to study ways to enhance readiness, it must better understand biomechanics and cognitive performance to quantify soldier lethality.
"We need to establish a baseline for soldier performance through the Soldier Performance Model," he said. "We have a team who will place sensors on each competitor to measure everything from stress and fatigue, to how their bodies process nutrition during the competition."
"This will help us collect data to evaluate the impact of those factors, and others, on soldiers, and what we can do to help them perform better," Grinston said.
Last year, Cpl. Matthew Hagensick from the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment at Fort Benning, Georgia, earned the Soldier of the Year title. Sgt. 1st Class Sean Acosta, a civil affairs specialist with the 1st Special Warfare Training Group at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, became NCO of the Year.
This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.