MRDC Names Best Squad, Also Awards Soldier, NCO of the Year Titles
Members of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command's U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases were named winners of the annual USAMRDC Best Squad Competition on April 13 during a ceremony at the Fort Detrick Auditorium. In addition, Spc. Cale Page of MRDC's U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research was named the command's Soldier of the Year, while Sgt. Tyler Nace of the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine was named the command's Non-commissioned Officer of the Year.
"It's an amazing feeling to win, to be recognized," said Nace, a biological research sergeant at USARIEM and, notably, a third-generation Army Soldier. "It was a tough competition. Plenty of times it was neck-and-neck out there. It feels really good to be able to move forward and to represent MRDC at the next level."
Said Page, a medical lab technician at USAISR, following his victory, "I came up short during the competition last year, which was extremely frustrating. That's why it's such a big relief that all my hard work has finally paid off."
The ceremony followed a lengthy, grueling week packed with both team and individual events designed to test Soldiers' physical and mental limits; including intangible qualities like perseverance, persistence and resilience. Staged at Fort A.P. Hill in Virginia, the competition featured 29 total participants from MRDC's direct reporting units, and included a series of ruck marches, medical lanes, problem-solving exercises and weapons qualification events – among many other testing modules – intended to gauge both physical and technical capabilities under pressure.
"That was probably the toughest thing I've done said I joined the Army three years ago," said Spc. Victoria Olguin, a laboratory technician at USAMRIID and member of the winning team. "We were surprised, honestly. There were lots of good people out there. It was tough."
Notable with this particular event was the inclusion of the Soldier of the Year and NCO of the Year competitions, both of which are normally staged as their own, individual event. Command leadership plans to couple Page and Nace with select members of the winning USAMRIID team to form a so-called "super squad" that will participate at the upcoming Army Futures Command Best Squad Competition.
"I'm a firm believer that winning matters," said Brig. Gen. Tony McQueen, Commanding General of MRDC and Fort Detrick, during an address to the participants prior to the award ceremony itself. "You could have easily skipped out on this event, maybe decided that you were too busy – but you wanted to be a Solider and you wanted to compete, and I appreciate your effort."
In addition to Page and Nace, the members of the MRDC "super squad" include Private First Class Rollian Morgan from MRDC's U.S. Army Aeromedical Research Laboratory, Staff Sgt. Jesse Hylton and Spc. Ousmane Drame, both from USAMRIID.
"It's a big honor – just a great feeling," said Drame, who notes the event was his first-ever competition of any kind in the Army. "I like to get out and try different things – but this was another level. The competition definitely taught me what I need to do next – I need to practice my physical training. I know where I need to improve."
The members of the winning USAMRIID team include Sgt. Kendall Geddings and Sgt. Korbyn Foss, along with Olguin, Hylton, and Drame. The AFC Best Squad Competition is scheduled to take place later this year.