Gunshots echoed behind a closed door, seconds later it flung open and two Soldiers entered weapons raised surprising two hulking black clothed men.
“Don’t shoot. Don’t shoot,” the men shouted as they quickly raised their hands and dropped to their knees. When the Soldiers began searching the men preparing to detain them, it didn’t take long for a fight to begin.
One Soldier was jumped and a brawl was on.
“The minute I went to search the one, the other one grabbed me,” said Staff Sgt. Corey Irwin, a candidate for Fort Jackson‘s drill sergeant of the year. “It was my natural instinct — it’s my life or his life.”
With a sudden movement Irwin spun around grabbing his attacker and took him to the floor all while landing a flurry of punches.
“I love clearing rooms,” said Irwin while pulling a few peanut butter and jelly sandwiches out his ruck afterwards. “Going through the room with high intensity and force — always I love it — the adrenaline starts rushing, pumping and I deliver. When I opened that door and saw those two combatants there my first instinct was, you know, they don’t have any weapons in their hands so I wanted to go through my escalation of force properly.”
Irwin and seven other noncommissioned officers and Soldiers competed in the 2017 Victory Best Warrior Competition last week. Along with Irwin being named Drill Sergeant of the Year, Staff Sgt. Christopher Carney was named Noncommissioned Officer of the Year, and Spc. Kiara Dale was named Soldier of the Year during a ceremony last night.
The installation’s best warrior competition comprised the post’s drill sergeant, NCO and Soldier of the year contests while forcing candidates to go through rigorous testing of their minds and bodies in near-battle conditions.
The competition was created to “challenge them in the skills, knowledge and attributes of a Soldier,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Lamont Christian, the post’s senior enlisted leader. Candidates had to go through “three straight days of grueling tasks,” he added.
Soldiers were faced with an Army Physical Fitness Test, writing an essay and land navigation on Tuesday, before appearing before a board of sergeants major Wednesday morning and spending the night out on the range. After being woken early the troops slogged through situation training exercises lanes before ruck marching to Anzio Live-Fire Range for a live-fire exercise. The three days culminated with a run through the Fit to Win obstacle course and a room clearing scenario that tested hand-to-hand combat skills.
The competition was “more challenging” compared to last year’s, said Staff Sgt. Daniel Barsi, Fort Jackson’s 2016 Drill Sergeant of the Year who helped coordinate this year’s event.
More physical challenges tested candidates’ stamina while moving the board to the front of the competition could’ve thrown the Soldiers off, he said. However, the contest is a “great opportunity to excel above your peers.”
Spc. Xavier Melton, a supply specialist with Delta Company, 3rd Battalion, 39th Infantry Regiment, found the competition both extremely taxing and refreshing at the same time.
Melton characterized his time as “horrible” after having trouble with the STX lanes where he had to “wing it” while remembering how to work various weapons systems including a M2 .50 caliber heavy machine gun.
His tune changed before entering the obstacle course.
The Soldier of the Year candidate called the competition “an eye-opening experience” to do things supply specialists don’t always do.
“It’s not something we particularly partake in,” he said. “It is good to go out here and see what it takes to do what some infantrymen do every day.”
Every candidate for the installation’s best warrior sat down briefly to discuss their motivations for going through the competition. Below are excerpts from the Drill Sergeant of the Year, Noncommissioned Officer of the Year and Soldier of the Year.
Staff Sgt. Corey Irwin, Delta Company, 1st Battalion, 61st Infantry Regiment
Drill Sergeant of the Year
“I have passion. I take pride in what I do. When I care about something I’m passionate about it.”
“Being a drill sergeant and doing competitions like this is much more demanding because you are required to pretty much on the spot know everything.”
“To compete means to give everything I’ve got to represent someone else.”
Staff Sgt. Christopher Carney, Delta Company, 2nd Battalion, 39th Infantry Regiment
NCO of the Year
The competition required him to “stay on my toes and being prepared for what may come up.”
Victory Best Warrior competition was a way “for me to get better, more experience, and overall improve my skills.”
Carney was influenced by his mother who spent 31 years in the Air Force and his father who is a Marine.
Soldiers looking to compete in these type of contest should “stay adaptable and give 110 percent.”
Spc. Kiara Dale, Headquarters, Headquarters Company, 120th Adjutant General Battalion
Soldier of the Year
The toughest part of the competition was “probably the all the board part. Studying all the regulations and knowing them by hear, and knowing all the acronyms was the most challenging part for me.”
Being able to compete meant her supervisor “had confidence in my Soldering and feel like I am one of the top in my battalion to compete for post. So it means a lot to me.”