A soldier representing Forces command works his way through one of nine obstacles in the All American Mile obstacle course, on the last day of events at Fort Bragg, North Carolina for the Best Squad Competition, Oct. 5, 2022. Photo by Jenna Biter/Coffee or Die Magazine.
FORT BRAGG, N.C. — The field for the first Army-wide Best Squad competition is down to four.
A dozen squads from all over the Army spent the last week competing in seven straight days of events. Along with shooting, written tests, and obstacle courses, the teams covered 88 miles with rucks on their backs through North Carolina pine country in events like navigation and timed distance marches.
Four squads representing four major commands — Forces command, Special Operations command, and one each from the Army National Guard and Army Reserve — secured spots in the next and final events, to be held this week in Washington D.C. The senior planner for the competition, Sgt. Maj. Phil Blaisdell, announced the top four squads at the 82nd Airborne headquarters.
Sgt. Maj. Phil Blaisdell announced the top four squads of the 2022 Best Squad competition after a week of events at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Photo by Jenna Biter/Coffee or Die Magazine.
The Army did not release the current standings among the teams. Cadre for the event said they did not want the competitors to know how they ranked heading into the finale.
Mystery was a major theme in the weeklong event, the first Best Squad competition the Army has held. Soldiers didn't know what came next at any point. The final event was a stress shoot.
"I don't think they realized what they were getting into when they came here," Blaisdell told Coffee or Die Magazine. "It was a lot harder than I think they thought it would be.
"And throw in a hurricane," Blaisdell said, referring to the remnants of Hurricane Ian, which soaked North Carolina for two days during the competition.
A soldier works his way through the "weaver," one of nine obstacles in the All American Mile obstacle course, on the last day of events at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, for the Best Squad Competition, Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2022. Photo by Jenna Biter/Coffee or Die Magazine.
Competitors completed slightly different events, depending on their military occupational specialty. They completed events that corresponded with the "expert" badges for their MOS, meaning some events varied for infantry soldiers and competitors who were medics or another MOS.
Blaisdell said that three soldiers actually qualified for the Expert Infantryman Badge during the competition. "We didn't think we'd get any," he said.
The last day of competition kicked off at 7 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 5, with the All American Mile obstacle course, a trail that's packed with nine obstacles, though it falls short of a full mile, followed by the stress shoot.
The final four squads will travel to Washington, DC, for a non-field — but in some ways more intimidating — closing event, an interview with a panel of sergeant majors from across the Army, including Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael Grinston, on Friday, Oct. 7.
Soldiers compete in a stress shoot, the last event of the 2022 Best Squad competition at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2022. Photo by Jenna Biter/Coffee or Die Magazine.
From the final four, the panel will select the best squad in the Army as well as the best noncommissioned officer, or NCO, and best soldier.
Grinston will announce the winning squad on Oct. 10 at the Association of the US Army, or AUSA, meeting in Washington, DC.
"You are truly the Army's best standing in this room," Blaisdell said to the room full of squads. "You endured a hurricane, multiple nights of limited sleep; conducted squad land navigations all over Fort Bragg, multiple air assaults; fired a Carl Gustaf, AT4s, and actually were able to hang 60 rounds of 60mm mortar just to name a few of the objectives."
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Jenna Biter is a staff writer at Coffee or Die Magazine. She has a master’s degree in national security and is a Russian language student. When she’s not writing, Jenna can be found reading classics, running, or learning new things, like the constellations in the night sky. Her husband is on active duty in the US military. Know a good story about national security or the military? Email Jenna.
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