'Best Squad' Members Return After Grueling Competition
Members of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command's Best Squad returned to Fort Detrick last week following their participation in the Army's first-ever Best Squad Competition at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, during the first week in October.
For Staff Sgt. Joshua Lorber, who served as the squad leader for the five-person team, the event was an opportunity to show Army leadership just how mentally and physically tough MRDC Soldiers can be.
"They are some of the best troops I have ever known," said Lorber of his teammates, who received a rousing send-off from command leadership prior to the event in late September. "I don't know very many Soldiers that could keep a smile on their face while hungry, tired and sleep deprived, but they kept the mood light and kept me pushing forward."
In addition to Lorber, the MRDC team included Sgt. Jackie Payne, Sgt. Marcus McCann, Sgt. Cody Sanford and Spc. Jose Gutierrez.
Designed to test participating squads on their individual tactical and technical proficiencies as well as their ability to work as a disciplined and cohesive team, the Best Squad Competition featured a variety of fitness and combat-related tasks, including the Army Combat Fitness Test, various weapons lanes, a 12-mile foot march and other individual and team-specific battle drills. In addition, and per the accounts of MRDC attendees, the event placed a premium on constant movement, using a number of exercises to test both the vigilance and resilience of the participants; the goal being to instill the importance of teamwork and unity among the squad members.
Notably, Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Grinston made an appearance to speak to the attending teams about the stakes of the challenge and the overall goals. According to Lorber, Grinston's opening statement – "You all don't know and are not ready for what lies ahead." – was, in essence, designed to make them aware of the sacrifices required to win the event.
"He was right," said Lorber, noting the atmosphere changed almost immediately upon the official start of the event. "These were some of the hardest days I've had in my military career – it takes a toll on your mental awareness and physical body. It's great to be physically fit, but for this competition you must be mentally fit and resilient to keep moving forward."
In the end, the Army Special Operations Command won the title of Best Squad of the Year. A total of 12 teams from across the Army participated in the event. The MRDC team had previously scored victories at both the command and Army Futures Command level prior to gaining entry to the Army-wide event.