Fort Leonard Wood’s Staff Sgt. Ryan McCarthy, 1st Engineer Brigade, claimed the 2017 Training and Doctrine Command’s Noncommissioned Officer of the Year title July 21.
“Honestly, it didn’t hit me until the next day,” McCarthy said about his win. “(Winning is) extremely rewarding. Probably one of the most rewarding things in my Army career.”
The Belgrade, Maine, native competed against noncommissioned officers from across Army TRADOC installations in the Best Warrior Competition held at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.
“The level of competition at this one was so much higher than any I have done,” McCarthy said. “All of these guys are the best at their installations.”
Some people believe “TRADOC Soldiers aren’t as hooah as other Soldiers,” said Command Sgt. Maj. David Davenport, TRADOC’s senior enlisted leader, prior to announcing the winners. “I guarantee if you talk to the men and women on that field and they would tell you they are just as hooah as anyone in the Army.”
Competitors faced medical testing on day one, July 17; an Army Physical Fitness Test, combatives and appeared before a board on day two; Victory Tower, weapons qualification and a live-fire exercise day three; the Fit to Win 2 obstacle course and situational training exercises on day four; and culminated with the Friday morning ruck march.
Staff Sgt. Ryan McCarthy, with the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., receives a wooden sword from Command Sgt. Maj. David S. Davenport, the senior enlisted leader of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command after being named the TRADOC Non-commissioned Officer of the Year July 21 during a ceremony at Fort Jackson’s Darby Field. (U.S. Army photo by Robert Timmons, Fort Jackson Public Affairs/Released)
“My focus was to take each event, each task, one at a time and not worry about anything else,” McCarthy said. “I wanted to go 100 percent at each task I was currently conducting and take one task at a time.”
McCarthy said he gave himself about 30 days to prepare following the Fort Leonard Wood competition, focusing on hot topics in the Army and maintaining peak physical conditioning, something he credits for his success in the competition.
“The basis for all this stuff is maintaining a good physical condition. That’s what’s going to make you succeed in these competitions from my experience,” he said. “If you can maintain physical fitness, and be in the top three physically, you can win this.”
McCarthy said he maintained his pace of giving his all for each event, and put himself in position to finish at the top before the final ruck-march event.
“A good focus for these things is you are not going to win every event,” he said. “But if you win a few, and keep yourself at the top consistently, you will be successful. I did know going into the ruck, the last event, I had a good shot.”
He ended up finishing first in the ruck by a “pretty good time,” he said. “I did feel very confident at the end I was going to take it.”
McCarthy will go on to vie for the title of Department of the Army’s NCO of the Year in the 16th annual competition.
“When we get to the Army level, the competition is twice as high as it was here,” McCarthy said. “Literally the best of the best in the entire Army will be competing there.”
This is the culminating test for NCOs and Soldiers of the Year from 10 Army commands across the globe, recognizing Soldiers who demonstrate commitment to the Army values, embody the Warrior Ethos and represent the Force of the Future.
“At the end of the day, you are competing, trying to beat these guys, but the esprit de corps and the camaraderie is unbelievable at these competitions,” McCarthy said. “We are all one team. It is an individual competition, but we are representing an organization bigger than ourselves.”
The Army Best Warrior Competition is slated to be held in the fall of this year at Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia.
FORT LEE, Va. — Sgt. 1st Class Alissa Guzman put her application in for the Best Warrior competition only because she wanted to be considered for another board and had to apply for both. Then she won the competition at the company level, then at the regimental level.
Soon, she was the only woman in the command-level competition for Army Training and Doctrine Command.
She came in second.
About a week before the Army-wide final competition, the winner broke his hand. Guzman was asked to represent her command in the grueling four-day mental and physical competition against the best soldiers and NCOs from the Army’s other major commands. The goal: to select the best to serve as examples for others in the Army. Winners receive cash, prizes, bragging rights and the coveted title of Soldier of the Year or Noncommissioned Officer of the Year.
Guzman didn’t have as much time to prepare as she would have liked, she said, so she just focused on doing her best.
“I just want, at the end of the day, to make my family proud, make my command proud, and of course, represent females in the military as best I can,” she said.
Guzman was the only woman in the competition this year, though she’s not the first to compete. In 2010, Sgt. Sherri Gallagher won the Soldier of the Year portion of the contest. The competition is open to enlisted soldiers, no matter the job or gender.
While a competition called Best Warrior may conjure images of hand-to-hand combat, in reality the competitors are tested physically and mentally to select the best all-around soldier. They even have to write an essay.
This year, Staff Sgt. Matthew Senna won the NCO portion of the event and was named the Army’s 2012 Noncommissioned Officer of the Year. Spc. Saral Shrestha was named the Soldier of the Year. Senna is an infantryman assigned to Company B, 7th Army NCO Academy in Germany. Shrestha is a power generation equipment repairer with Group Service Support Company, Group Support Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group, U.S. Army Special Forces Command at Fort Bragg, N.C.
Sgt. Darius Krzywonos, a field artillery surveyor/meteorological crewman based at Fort Lewis, Wash., knew what to expect for most parts of the competition, which started Oct. 15. But in one “mystery exercise,” the men were presented with a female uniform and enlisted record and had to put the uniform together properly. Guzman was given a male uniform to assemble.
Krzywonos wasn’t completely unprepared for the task; he had been asked about female uniforms during his training. Since he reached his brigade-level competition, he said, he hasn’t stopped studying.
Spc. Paul Welte, a food service specialist stationed at Fort Myer, Va., also did a lot of preparation, but was surprised at how specific some of the tests were. Still, he said he believes the preparation and competition process is helping him become a better soldier by training and adapting to different environments.
Spc. Richard Shepard, an intelligence analyst stationed in Kaiserslautern, Germany, said he did the lowest-level competition as a learning experience, then just kept winning. He appreciates the opportunity to train and compete because it can help develop and define leadership skills, he said.
For some of the scenarios, the competitors are assigned a fire team and are graded not just on how fast they put on the gear, how straight they shoot and how fast they capture the bad guy, but also how they lead and interact with the team.
“A noncombat MOS is at equal disadvantage as a combat MOS when it comes to the intellectual aspect of it,” Krzywonos said. “It’s a very well-rounded competition. … The physicality was only one aspect of it, and there were many.”
The annual Best Warrior competition began in 2002. Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond Chandler said the competition’s aim is to identify well-rounded examples for the rest of the Army. The winners will represent the Army at several events — from baseball games to meetings with members of Congress — throughout the year.
“It’s important for us to be able to show the Army what ‘right’ looks like,” Chandler said.
Guzman’s participation in the competition coincides with a larger discussion about opening more combat roles to women. Guzman said it is motivating to be the only woman in the competition, though she said there are “absolutely” better female soldiers out there.
Guzman, a microwave systems operator/maintainer, serves as a senior drill sergeant at Fort Jackson, S.C. There, she is in charge of two drill sergeants and about 60 soldiers.
If the opportunity presents itself for women to take on more combat roles, “if there are women who feel like they can do it, and are afforded the opportunity to do it, that kind of opens the door for them,” she said, without specifying whether she would volunteer for a combat role.
“Me personally, I’m going to do what I’m told. I signed up, I raised my hand, I made a commitment,” Guzman said. “I love what I do. ... I love what I stand for. And as long as my kids can walk around and say, ‘That’s my mom,’ then I must be doing something right.”
U.S. Army Spc. Paul Welte assigned to 529th Regimental Support Company, 3d Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), Fort Myer, Va., presents arms during the physical fitness test at the Department of the Army Best Warrior competition at Fort Lee Va., Oct. 16, 2012. The United States Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) is designed to test the muscular strength, endurance, and cardiovascular respiratory fitness of soldiers in the Army.
U.S. ARMY PHOTO BY SPC. RAUL PAC