Following an intense four-day competition, six service members came out on top as Maneuver Support Center of Excellence Best Warriors at Fort Leonard Wood May 18.
Eighteen military personnel competed for the titles of Drill Sergeant of the Year, Advanced Individual Training Platoon Sergeant of the Year, Noncommissioned Officer of the Year, Soldier of the Year, Joint Service NCO of the Year and Joint Service Junior Enlisted Service Member of the Year.
The winners are:
— Drill Sergeant of the Year: Staff Sgt. Chad Hickey, 795th Military Police Battalion
— AIT Platoon Sergeant of the Year: Staff Sgt. Benjamin Dippolito, 701st Military Police Battalion
— Noncommissioned Officer of the Year: Staff Sgt. Ryan McCarthy, 1st Engineer Brigade
— Soldier of the Year: Spc. William Garrett, 795th MP Bn.
— Joint Service NCO of the Year: Marine Sgt. Cole Bumsted, Marine Corps Detachment
— Joint Service Junior Enlisted Service Member of the Year: Marine Lance Cpl. Jeff Fincher, Marine Corps Detachment
Hickey said he was surprised when his name was called because he wasn’t sure he was the best drill sergeant in the competition.
“I didn’t think I had what it took, so I came out and gave it my all and did my best in every event,” he said.
Bumsted, participating in his second MSCoE Best Warrior, said he had a “blast” competing because of the rivalry between the services. Staff Sgt. Rafael Vazquez, drill sergeant with 795th MP Bn., agreed.
“Competition brings out the best in everybody,” the DS of the Year runner-up said. “It all comes down to the rivalry and camaraderie. We all come together to win, but in the end, it’s the bonds we form with the people we’ve never met before.”
Brig. Gen. Kevin Vereen, U.S. Army Military Police School commandant, served as the guest speaker and put the purpose of the competition into perspective for all the participants.
“(This is) a grueling competition consisting of 11 physically and mentally demanding events designed to test the mettle of these Soldiers,” Vereen said. “Ultimately, as we continue to operate in complex environments, we are expected to be flexible and ready — ready to respond as a capable force. These warriors embody readiness, as they are equipped with the knowledge and experience that continues to set our standards high. They are agile and adaptive leaders — an inspiration to the next group of NCOs and Soldiers to emulate this trend.”
Events at the 2017 MSCoE Best Warrior Competition included marksmanship, an Army Physical Fitness Test, an obstacle course and basic military skills stations, said Staff Sgt. Matthew Poole, an event coordinator and 2016 MSCoE NCO of the Year.
For some of the competitors, the most challenging event was the final 12-mile ruck march. Dippolito said the pain he experienced after the final ruck was an indicator that he would need to work harder if he was going to represent Fort Leonard Wood well at the TRADOC level.
“I have to up my game for the TRADOC competition, which is supposed to be more intense than this one,” he said.
Command Sgt. Maj. Jon Stanley, MSCoE command sergeant major, said the winners of the MSCoE Best Warrior will represent the post well at the next levels of competition.
“Fort Leonard Wood has a very good history with selecting a Fort Leonard Wood Best Warrior and sending them to TRADOC,” he said.
McCarthy and Garrett will represent Fort Leonard Wood at the Training and Doctrine Command’s Best Warrior Competition in July at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, for NCO and Soldier of the Year.
Hickey and Dippolito will compete for TRADOC titles of Drill Sergeant of the Year and AIT Platoon Sergeant of Year, respectively, starting Sept. 11 at Fort Leonard Wood.
Hickey and Dippolito both said the pressure is on, so they will train hard leading up to the TRADOC level competition.
“(We) don’t want to let down all the people counting on us,” Hickey said.