After decades of Army competitions for everything from Best Ranger to Best Medic, the tube jockeys finally got their own time to shine this past week with the first-ever Best Mortar Competition.
And the away team from the Army’s “All-American” Division won it all at Fort Benning, Georgia.
The four-man team from the 82nd Airborne Division bested eight other Army teams in a three-day competition that featured the Army Combat Readiness Physical Fitness Test, four mortar skills exams, live-fire events on the 60mm, 81mm and 120mm mortar systems, night operations, land navigation, medical lanes and obstacle courses, said Nate Snook, a Fort Benning spokesman.
The winning team included Staff Sgt. James Pennington, Sgt. Ryan Mosser, Cpl. Jacob Nolan and Cpl. Alec Norton.
Though the competition was demanding, the soldiers said they had fun.
“We’re getting paid to shoot rockets out of cannons. How cool is that,” Pennington said.
Sgt 1st Class Yuslandy Figueredo with the 198th Infantry Training Brigade won best individual mortarman.
A team from the 75th Ranger Regiment took second place and a 101st Airborne Division placed third.
Pennington said in a release that the four soldiers spend a lot of time training at their home station of Fort Bragg, North Carolina but the stresses and challenges of the competition “exceeded anything” that they faced in typical training.
The competition added a lot of strength and endurance events before the live fires, which meant taking extra steps to focus “while gasping for air” as they set up and sighted the mortars, Mosser said.
All four members of the winning team said they’d bring what they learned back to their unit and try to introduce more physical events into their mortar training plans, according to the release.
Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.