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Soldiers brave cold for annual competition

1/5/2014

By RANDY GONZALES

rgonzales@dailynews.net

Part of Saturday's best warrior competition for the 388th multi-functional medical battalion was conducted in frigid conditions.

That's all part of being a soldier, said Staff Sgt. Lester Peak, a sponsor for one of the five participants at the annual competition at the U.S. Army Reserve Center, 880 Commerce Parkway.

"When you're a soldier, you've got to be prepared to engage in a mission in any type of environment," he said.

The temperature Saturday morning when the competition started was in the 20s, with the wind chill in the teens, thanks to a brisk north wind. The competition was to last through the day Saturday. The winner moves on to brigade-level competition.

"Once you get going, your adrenaline going, you don't even notice it," said participant Sgt. Blake VanEaton, with the 391st Medical Logistics Co., of the cold weather.

The competition started at 7 a.m. with a physical fitness test comprised of sit-ups for two minutes, push-ups for two minutes and a 2-mile run.

After a break, the participants are put in charge of a team of soldiers and graded on different tasks they have to perform.

First, the participant's team stops a vehicle at a checkpoint and searches it for IEDs and intelligence that can be discovered and reported. The team then observes a "city" and looks for enemy combatants, and is tasked with clearing the city of the enemy.

The team engages an Al-Qaeda opposition force team and exchanges fire using paint guns. A simulation round goes off, and the team takes cover under "mortar fire."

The participant's team has one "casualty" during the "battle." A life-size mannequin with a sucking chest wound and an amputated foot has to be treated before being evacuated to end the exercise.

"We do this to determine, out of all our soldiers, who is the best overall competitor, that's the most knowledgeable in all the areas of our warriors' tasks and drills, and also to see who is the most physically fit," said Staff Sgt. Roy Henry of the 388th, who was in charge of Saturday's competition.

After the outdoors portion of the skills test, the participants assemble and disassemble an M-16 rifle and M-9 pistol while also explaining how to clean the weapons. After that, participants put on chemical suits for a simulated attack.

The participants then have a mystery task; in this case, it involved leadership skills. Following that was a written exam and then an essay question before being quizzed while in dress uniform.

Specialist Nathan Gray of the 388th and 469th Medical Company, was one of the participants; he said the exercise was helpful.

"There are a lot of tasks they tell you to study up on. I'm a medic, so there are a few on first aid that aren't going to be a problem at all," Gray said. "A lot of it is polishing up on skills."

"The lanes are really going to be the test of everything," VanEaton said before the outdoors tests. "A lot of it is just being confident and going for it."