CAMP ZAMA, Japan -- Five Soldiers assigned to the 35th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion competed in the unit’s first ever battalion-level “Best Warrior” competition Sept. 28 through Oct. 1 on Sagami General Depot and Camp Zama, Japan.
Despite his unit being comprised of Soldiers with many different military occupational specialties, 35th CSSB Command Sgt. Maj. Paul Denson said they all have one common goal: to provide world-class logistics on mainland Japan and beyond.
To achieve this goal, his Soldiers have to feel like they’re part of a team, Denson said, and cohesive teams are built through “tough and rigorous training.” Therefore, Denson and his senior noncommissioned officers devised a series of events—a ruck march, a land-navigation course, a “combat run,” an Army Physical Fitness Test, a marksmanship event and an obstacle course—that would challenge his Soldiers physically and mentally, and help build “adaptive, lethal and agile” teams.
There were two divisions in the competition—Soldier and Noncommissioned Officer—and the competitors had previously been recognized as Soldier and NCO of the Quarter. This event would determine the respective Soldier and NCO of the Year, Denson said.
Denson said he was so excited while watching the competitors every day that he couldn’t help but participate in the most of the events alongside them.
“The competitors performed extremely well,” Denson said. “They can forever hold their heads high and be proud that they represented the best Soldiers in the organization.”
The unit is excited to keep the legacy of the event going, with Denson noting that they are working to improve the concept and are already planning next year’s event.
Sgt. 1st Class Janette Sauvou, the event coordinator, said it took her and her team about a month to prepare everything for the competition.
“I had the chance to work with a strong group of NCOs who made the mission happen and kept safety as the priority of every activity,” Sauvou said. “And the sponsors also provided great moral support during the competition to keep pushing the competitors throughout all the [events].”
The competition met the 35th CSSB commander’s intent by “testing all competitors through tough and vigorous evaluations,” continued Sauvou.
Staff Sgt. Jarred Webb, NCO in charge of the obstacle course event, said his role was to plan a safe event that would “push the competitors to their limits and test their physical and mental toughness after a long week of nonstop, intense events.”
“The competitors gave it their all, and [I’m sure they] all felt accomplished and proud of their efforts at the end,” Webb said. “I believe the competitors have a sense of pride being a part of the first ever ‘Samurai Best Warrior’ competition.”
Though he was eventually named the winner in the NCO division—along with Soldier of the Year winner, Spc. Gaya Gaya—Sgt. Marino Cabral said the event was so tough that he thought about quitting after the first day.
“But what made me keep going was Command Sergeant Major Denson doing everything with the competitors side by side ... and having my sponsors beside me every single day to push me,” Cabral said.
Cabral thanked the other competitors during the award presentation Oct. 1 at the Camp Zama Community Club, saying he believed everyone had an opportunity to learn something about each other during the event.
“To me, you guys are all winners too,” Cabral said.
Staff Sgt. Rabindra Thapa, Cabral’s sponsor, said his role was to ensure Cabral had all the equipment he needed for each event, and to act as a support system by staying by his side each day, pushing him and encouraging him.
“There was no question about [Cabral’s] growth as each day passed ... because he continuously showed tremendous resiliency and confidence,” Thapa said. “Sergeant Cabral did a great job ... to accomplish the win.”
Thapa said he hopes Cabral’s example helps encourage other Soldiers and NCOs to train for and compete in the unit’s Best Warrior competition in the future.
Spc. Nhien Nguyen, another competitor, said she was nervous before beginning the event, but also honored to be representing her unit. Much like Cabral, Nguyen said she was encouraged during the competition thanks to support from her sponsors, who were beside her at every event to guide and push her.
Nguyen, originally from Vietnam, said Denson gave her motivation and encouragement by telling her she was representing her home country, as well as reminding her and the other competitors to live by the Army’s “Warrior Ethos.”
“This event was very tough, as I was the only female in this competition, and I had to put 200 percent of my best to compete with the others,” Nguyen said. “I could not make it through without my leaders and my battle buddies.”
Nguyen said she wants all the other female Soldiers in her unit to know, “If I can do it, they can do it too.”
“I am proud because I represented the female warriors in my unit, [and was able] to be an example for others to follow,” Nguyen said.