Warrior competition reflects changes in training, Army mission
By T. Anthony Bell
Fort Lee Public Affairs
FORT LEE, Va. (Army News Service, Oct. 4, 2006) - The 2006 Department of the Army Noncommissioned Officer/Soldier of the Year Competition is underway here.
The event features significant changes from years past to better reflect the Army's current state of training and its war on terror mission.
"We've been training in the past to fight Vietnam and the Cold War, but times change," said Command Sgt. Maj. Anthony T. Aubain, event coordinator and Fort Lee's top enlisted Soldier. "We have to adapt our training and change our thinking in a way that's better suited to deal with the various threats out there."
This year's NCOY/SOY event, dubbed the "Best Warrior Competition," consists of several traditional events - the Army Physical Fitness Test, board appearance, weapons qualification range and others - but adds twists to others.
Gone is the wooded land navigation course, a long-time fixture at the competition. In its place is the Urban Warfighter Orientation Course set in the installation's busiest spot. To navigate the course, Soldiers are provided a compass and global positioning satellite device or "plugger."
"Our Soldiers walk the streets in Iraq right now in the cities and towns using pluggers to find their locations. We should be learning and training in the same way," said Aubain.
The course also incorporates medical evacuations and IEDs. "We're trying to make sure these Soldiers are thinking, adaptive leaders," Aubain added.
On the weapons qualification range, competitors negotiate 25-meter lanes and engage targets while walking, kneeling and standing. Such reflexive-fire skills are taught in Basic Training and most professional Army schools, but not all Soldiers have received the training. Sgt. Anthony Lark, U.S. Army Medical Command Soldier of the Year, said he has never trained on reflexive fire but isn't discouraged.
"I may have a disadvantage because I'm not as experienced," said the 21-year-old competitor. "But if I'm going to compete for the title, I'm going to have to learn quickly."
The reflexive fire event requires Soldiers to use M-4 Carbines, a shorter version of the M-16 that's designed for use at close quarters and widely used in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is the first time the competition has featured the M-4.
Other changes to the NCOY/SOY Competition include the implementation of new rules concerning the handling and supervising of enemy prisoners of war and use of the individual first-aid kit.
Sgt. 1st Class Monica Ray, a sponsor for the Training and Doctrine Command representative, said changes to this year's competition are welcome.
"I'm very pleased to come here and find the competition has included the new events," said Ray. "It mirrors our mission; it has changed to keep up with what is going on in the Army."
Although the NCOY/SOY is a skills competition - not a training event - Aubain said it is important the event showcases the Army's new training strategies.
"We have to stay current in all that we do," he said. "It only makes sense to challenge Soldiers in what is taking place today in the Army. Everybody is excited that we've incorporated all the new training and that everything relates to the current fight."