by Rick Emert
The 759th Military Police Battalion has earned bragging rights as the best in the Army after winning the Military Police Warfighter Challenge that ran Sept. 15-18 at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.
The three-man team of Cpl. Thomas Lemonds, Spc. Leonard Salazar and Spc. Sam Meroney and coach Staff Sgt. James Pendergrass won the physical training and warrior task single categories as well as taking first place overall.
The grueling four-day contest consisted of physically and mentally demanding events.
The first day consisted of in-processing and a physical fitness test performed in the Army combat uniform that included three minutes each of elevated push-ups and sit-ups with a 25-pound weight and a six-mile run, Meroney said. That was followed by a relay-race that involved carrying full ammunition cans and pushing a Humvee, Meroney said.
As would be the norm throughout the competition, the team members got a couple of hours of sleep before beginning the next day’s competition, which included an obstacle course, a ruck march, law and order operations and weapons ranges, Salazar said.
The third day included more road marching as the teams were tested on their abilities to perform 12 warrior tasks, including assembly and function checks of weapons, a nine-line medevac report and setting up a claymore mine, Meroney said.
Next, the teams had to put those skills to use by performing
a mock operation to capture a “high-value target” at the military operations in urban terrain training site, Lemonds said.
Also on the third day, the teams had more weapons ranges and a water rescue that entailed pulling 70-pound ammunition cans and a 200-pound mannequin from a swimming pool, Salazar said.
The day ended with a written test.
“After you’re exhausted, you really don’t want to think,” Salazar said. “You’re leaning on your hand just kind of dozing and circling whatever bubble is there. It was rough.”
The final competitive event was a 15-mile, timed road march on day four.
The 759th MP Bn. leadership didn’t arbitrarily choose the team and alternate team it would send to Warfighter.
“We had company-level and battalion-level tryouts, and the top six were chosen for the primary and alternate teams,” Pendergrass said.
Although the team didn’t know what events to expect at the competition, Pendergrass prepared them as best he could, Salazar said.
“We did PT three times a day,” he said. “We didn’t know the events (at Warfighter) to start with. Basically, the only thing you know is the date and what you’re supposed to bring. We were putting twists on everything. For our claymores, before we set it up, we . . . did a sprint with all of our gear on and came back so we were just exhausted. That’s when you start to get complacent. You start to lose things. You start to forget to do checks and stuff like that.
“That’s what helped us out the most, because with lack of sleep and beating our bodies with ruck marches and everything we were exhausted. But, at that level, we were able to think and accomplish our tasks pretty well.”
The alternate team, consisting of Sgt. Jessica Butcher, Spc. Justin Bridges and Spc. Andrew Mahar, trained right along side the primary team, Salazar said.
“They were ready, and they were just as able as we were,” he said. “To have them down there with us was awesome. They were there to bring our spirits back
up when we were feeling lowest.
I needed that, especially at that range. I was feeling crappy. My weapon just kept jamming up. Nothing went right that day at all. They were there cheering us on.”
After winning the competition, the team got to stay at Fort Leonard Wood for MP regimental week events, including the regimental ball, a hall of fame induction and a retirement ceremony, Salazar said.
“It’s still setting in for me, but it was just a huge honor,” said Salazar Sept. 28 – his first day back at Fort Carson after his team won the competition. “We were distinguished guests for everything during regimental week. As hard as it was, as much as it hurt, I would do it again in a heartbeat.”