Army Reserve's Best Warrior Competition Tests Soldiers

The best soldiers in the Army Reserve are gathered on Fort Bragg this week, with a chance to compete against the best in the Army on the line.

The Reserve's Best Warrior Competition is being held at Fort Bragg for the second year. The competition started Sunday, when 39 competitors arrived from across the country. It ends Friday.

As of Wednesday morning, every competitor remained in the competition, which entered what is arguably its most physically demanding day.

The competitors completed a six-mile ruck march before being tested at the Fort Bragg Air Assault School's obstacle course.

Spc. Brandon Johnson was dripping with sweat and was covered with sand after his run through the course. Johnson, a licensed practical nurse with the 452nd Combat Support Hospital in St. Paul, Minnesota, said he wasn't prepared for the heat and humidity that greeted him in North Carolina.

"It was high 40s when I left home," Johnson said. "Now, I'm hurting."

But Johnson said he felt good about his performance in the competition so far.

"I'm excited to be here," he said.

Competitors in the Army Reserve Best Warrior Competition have had to win several similar events to earn the right to compete at Fort Bragg. That means that all 39 competitors are winners, Johnson said.

"Everybody has a good attitude," he said. "We've all made it this far. We're all competing against really good people."

The top enlisted soldier, noncommissioned officer and an alternate will travel to Fort Devens, Massachusetts, this summer to prepare for the Army-wide competition later this year in Virginia, officials said.

Whoever represents the Reserve as a noncommissioned officer will aim to defend the title of top NCO earned by the Army Reserve's Staff Sgt. Andrew Fink last year. Another Reserve soldier, Sgt. 1st Class Jason J. Manella, earned the same title in 2013.

On Wednesday, competitors followed up their obstacle course runs with a series of weapons tests, with drill sergeants from the Charlotte-based 108th Training Command serving as evaluators for all competition events.

Throughout the week, the soldiers also were tested on their appearance, in written exams and essays, and in land navigation and combat skills testing lanes.

Spc. Kayla Bundy, a competitor from Washington representing the 1st Battalion, 414th Infantry Regiment, said that win or lose, the competition was making her better.

"It's motivation," she said, explaining that while physically demanding, the competition was most grueling mentally.

A wheeled vehicle mechanic, Bundy said competitors have formed a tight bond, becoming like a family during the competition.

But that won't stop them from giving it their best.

"I love the challenge," Bundy said. "I love to compete, and I love to win."

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