Soldiers at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson competed in the Best Warrior competition this week. The tests are grueling, not just physically, but mentally as well.


After two days of obstacle courses and written exams, the soldiers spent a third day in the field demonstrating their soldier skills.


Staff Sgt. Aaron Powell ran two miles in full gear, and once he reached the field where the test was taking place, he immediately had to keep running to the aid of a “wounded” soldier. He was already physically stressed, but now it’s a mental game.


Powell’s task: perform battlefield triage then move the soldier to safety. The “wounded soldier”, really a 150 plus pound dummy, is missing a leg. Powell’s first treatment choice, a tourniquet, is broken.


“Just to throw a little wrench in there and see what you do under pressure,” he said, moving to plan B. “You had to be able to look around you and say, ok, what can I find to be able to use to stop this guy from bleeding?”


That’s the whole point of tests like this, said Staff Sgt. William Oakley, who judges the soldiers’ performance. The task is designed with a hurdle, like the broken tourniquet, to see how quickly the soldiers can regroup and move forward. Oakley isn’t allowed to help them figure it out.


“It is kind of tough to bite your lip and just watch,” he said. “The object is for it to not be a perfect combat scenario. You see we have random stuff laid out on the battlefield. It’s for the soldiers to think outside the box.”


Powell ends up using a ratchet strap to stop the dummy’s bleeding. Now, it’s time to move it. Again, his first try failed.


“I took his poncho and kinda rigged up a harness to it and tried dragging him. All I ended up doing was ripping the poncho in half,” said Powell.


He sees a gurney, hidden behind the rock, and used it instead, dragging it and the heavy dummy across a field of soft grass and gravel.


“It makes you push yourself and see how far you’re willing to push yourself,” said Powell.


This is only the first of half a dozen soldier tasks Powell has to complete. He has to navigate himself from task to task, getting more physically exhausted every time. Each task has a twist, forcing him to adapt, all while being watched and timed.


“I’m actually learning, seeing some of these younger kids, what they’re able to create,” said Oakley.


In the end, Powell did not take the title “Best Warrior”.


Spc. James Harris won Soldier of the Year. Sgt. Brett Nicholls won Noncommissioned Officer of the Year. They will go on to compete in the Best Warrior – US Army Pacific contest in Hawaii.


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