by Capt. Earl Brown
1st Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs Office, 4th Infantry Division
More than 80 junior officers of 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, competed in the Raider Brigade Best Lieutenant Competition by demonstrating training, stamina, leadership skills and team building recently.
Taking place Dec. 11-15 the in extreme weather conditions slamming the Pike’s Peak region, the challenging four-day event tested 1st BCT junior leaders in all facets of warrior skills training, knowledge and will, said Capt. Jeffrey Soltz, competition planning officer, 1st BCT, 4th Inf. Div.
“This was a great opportunity to put junior officers in different challenging environments,” said Soltz. “It helped them identify their own strengths and weaknesses they’ll need to address in Afghanistan.”
Raider lieutenants and junior captains fought off howling winds and blowing snow, proving their prowess by competing in events designed to test each competitor’s knowledge of the brigade’s historic lineage, basic warrior tasks, combat-lifesaving skills, fire support and expertise on various weapons systems, said Soltz.
The brigade used the competition to emphasize team building among the junior leaders, which helped bring everyone to a common understanding of the challenges the Soldiers will face during their upcoming deployment, said Lt. Col. Brandon Newton, deputy commanding officer, 1st BCT, 4th Inf. Div.
“Throughout our training, physical fitness and an understanding of how weather affects fatigue and morale will be addressed as we prepare for our impending deployment to Afghanistan,” said Newton.
The winner of the Raider Best Lieutenant Competition was 1st Lt. Jason Haggard, platoon leader, Troop A, 7th Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment.
In preparation for the competition, units conducted precompetition training for their officers, which incorporated basic soldiering and platoon leader skills, said Haggard.
“The air-ground integration and call for fire training piece we conducted went way beyond what we were actually tested on,” said Haggard. “This is training that everybody needs to be familiar with. It was great insight as to where we need to be.”
Throughout the week, severe weather wreaked havoc on competitors and organizers alike. Being able to identify and properly treat cold-weather injuries became real-world training tools for the Raiders.
“We are in an ideal location where we have the environmental conditions that allow us to train like we will fight in Afghanistan,” said Capt. Doug Powell, brigade surgeon, 1st BCT, 4th Inf. Div. “Soldiers and leaders need to know how to dress appropriately and take care of themselves and their buddies.”
Demoralizing weather was a big factor; however, competitors maintained their morale and pushed forward through the fast-paced, back-to-back events, said Haggard.
The junior officers formed teams comprised of officers from different battalions with an emphasis on pairing individuals who had not worked or trained with each other in the past.
“We got to see the faces and the names that are actually going to be conducting the various tasks throughout the brigade,” said Haggard. “It is good to know they are out there, and that we are going to be working with them as a team in the future in Afghanistan.”