FORT SHAFTER, Hawaii -- U.S. Army Pacific had to adapt and overcome the challenges of a COVID-19 environment while conducting the 2020 Best Warrior Competition (BWC).
This year the BWC events were conducted both locally and virtually to ensure the safety of competitors, support staff and adhere to COVID-19 restrictions.
“This is the new normal, 2020 has been anything but normal and we still have a third of it left. Ordinarily, we’d be doing this here in Hawaii all together, but as the video just showed, we are able to do it across the U.S. Army Pacific (USARPAC) footprint,” said Gen. Paul J. LaCamera, USARPAC commanding general.
He was speaking to the competitors of the USARPAC Best Warrior Competition 2020 during the virtual announcement of the USARPAC NCO and Soldier of the Year.
The USARPAC Best Warrior Competition is an annual week-long competition consisting of competitors from multiple USARPAC units. This year, due to COVID-19, the competition took place Aug. 24 – 27 across the Indo-Pacific and competitors conducted physical events at their home station and participated in a virtual knowledge board presided by the USARPAC command sergeant major.
With competitors participating from different states, countries, and time zones, communication between the operations team at USARPAC and the nine major subordinate commands was key to ensure synchronization of the planning and execution for the competition.
“During the planning process we had to consider local, state, federal, and international guidelines that are in place to reduce the spread of COVID-19 as well as the different capabilities each major subordinate command could utilize,” said Master Sgt. James Miller, one of the lead planners for the competition and the USARPAC master gunner. “Capabilities vary at each location and that was factored into the planning process. This was to ensure all the competitors were exposed to the same conditions and competition events and the overall competition was fair.”
This year’s competition was postponed due to the ever changing guidelines to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Command Sgt. Maj. Scott A. Brzak, USARPAC command sergeant major, made the decision to postpone the competition to ensure the major subordinate commands had as much time to plan and complete their own internal competitions.
“Last year, all the competitors were flown to Hawaii in June and did the weeklong competition in person,” said Miller. “Since we had the best of the nine major subordinate commands, they would stay an additional week and participate in Pacific Theater Army Week activities and the winners were unveiled at the luau at Schofield Barracks celebrating the Army’s birthday.”
This year, there was no Pacific Theater Army Week and there was no Luau. Even though the competitors were evaluated on fewer events than before, this just made it more important to demonstrate a mastery of each event.
During the virtual closing ceremony and announcement of the winners LaCamera and Brzak spoke to all the competitors via a television monitor and an online video communication platform. All of the competitors were arranged in tiles on the television and LaCamera compared it to watching the game show, Hollywood Squares.
“To the team, thank you for your support during this competition,” said Brzak. “Without your support and hard work, this competition would have not have been a success. It takes the entire team to accomplish the mission in a COVID environment while utilizing virtual means. Job well done. To our winners, good luck and win the Army competition. One team!”
Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Tumey, a combat medic representing 18th Medical Command, Fort Shafter, Hawaii and Spc. Hwui Yoo, a cryptologic linguist representing Eighth Army, USAG Humphreys, South Korea were selected as USARPAC BWC NCO and Soldier of the Year. Each will represent USARPAC at the Department of the Army BWC.