FORT A.P. HILL, Va. — On the first day of the revamped Best Warrior Competition, Sergeant Major of the Army Dan Dailey was already looking for new ways to test and challenge the soldiers who want to be named the Army's best.
This year’s Best Warrior Competition, with four days of events set to wrap up Thursday, featuresof which took place Oct. 5-8, and it featured not only a new location but what Dailey promised would be a tougher, more realistic and battle-focused event.
Twenty-six soldiers from across the Army earned the right to compete in the all-Army event. The competition ultimately determines a Soldier of the Year and Noncommissioned Officer of the Year. The winners will be named Monday Oct. 12 during a special luncheon at the Association of the United States Army's annual meeting in Washington, D.C.
"Everything you do in the Army should reinforce what a soldier needs to be able to achieve on the battlefield in order to win, even in competition," Dailey said. "So the focus on shooting, moving and communicating, and soldier skills, the intent of it is to find the best soldier."
This year's competition also places more emphasis on physical fitness.
"This is in keeping with the same initiatives I had when I took over," Dailey said. "If you want physical fitness to be important, you have to make it important. Not just say it, but you have to do it, and then you have to do it every day, and leaders have got to do it, and the competition that picks the best soldier has to make it important."
The Army’s annual cBest Warrior Competition tests soldiers on everything from urban warfare simulations and board interviews to physical fitness, and warrior tasks and battle drills. It has been described as the Super Bowl of Army competitions, and participants competitors earn their spot in the Army-level event by competing in various competitions throughout the year at the command to which they’re assigned.
"It's going to be completely different again next year," he said, adding that the focus will be on "reinforcing what is important as a soldier."
When the Army picks its best soldier and NCO, they must be "what every soldier in the Army expects," Dailey said, "physically fit, mentally tough, capable and resilient, can do all their warrior tasks and drills, are technically proficient in their [military occupational specialty]. That's what we're trying to achieve."
Dailey said he anticipates the annual competition will continue to evolve.
"I think there are opportunities here to gauge more soldier skills," he said.
One idea would be to test soldiers on mental tasks in between physically demanding tasks.
"That's how it's going to occur on the battlefield, so it's a constant demand of both physical skill and mental skills and ability, and you're demonstrating resiliency throughout the competition," Dailey said.
Best Warrior also may start to look more like the Best Ranger Competition.
"You don't want to sit around," Dailey said. "If you watch the Ranger competition, they just go from one event to the next to the next."
Another idea might be to present competitors with the full lists of tasks and events they have to complete over a three-day period and then let them choose which events to complete first.
"What you do is you get them to strategize themselves," Dailey said. "Do I do the physically demanding tasks first? Do I do the mentally demanding tasks first? Do I go shoot the weapons first?"
Those are just some ideas Dailey and the team at AWG are discussing, Dailey said.
"We don't want you to just replicate tasks," he said. "We want you to critically think because that's what soldiers and noncommissioned officers will have to do on the battlefield."
Another aspect Dailey is studying is how to reduce the number of units allowed to send competitors. As it stands, every Army major command and service component command is allowed to send competitors to the all-Army event. But because of the difference in size among the commands, some soldiers may have an advantage.
For example, Space and Missile Defense Command is about the size of a brigade, Dailey said."They do a board and send [their soldiers] to Army," he said. Soldiers in a command such as Forces Command have to compete at company, battalion, brigade, division and corps before they even qualify to compete at the FORSCOM level.
"There's a huge difference, and we're going to figure it out," he said. "This is not to downplay anybody, but to keep it fair. We'll figure out a structure that will allow us to input soldiers."
Regardless of what future competitions look like, Dailey said soldiers will still get good training.
"You know what going through all these competitions does for you? It gives you experience," he said. "'Even though this is just a competition, it's training."