Members of the CASCOM Warrior Training Center staff. The WTC is responsible for pre-deployment training, assisting units all over the state, and supports the Best Warrior competition. (Photo by T. Anthony Bell)

FORT LEE, Va. (July 14, 2011) -- Fort Lee's Warrior Training Center personnel have been a fixture at the annual Department of the Army Best Warrior Competition since 2006, operating and managing many of the training events.

While it is their most visible mission, it is certainly not the bulk of what they do, said Sgt. 1st Class James L. Mills, the WTC's assistant noncommissioned officer in charge.

"Our mission is to train Soldiers, NCOs and officers on the Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills," he said.

Mills said that means the nine NCOs assigned to the Command Arms Support Command activity are primarily trainers of the 15 individual tasks and four team drills the Army deems necessary to survive in combat. Those tasks are primarily taught to units as part of their mandatory pre-deployment training.

"We train Soldiers at Fort Lee, but we also reach out and train Soldiers at Fort Story, the District of Columbia (metropolitan area) and those units belonging to the Reserve and National Guard," he said.

During the last year, the WTC personnel trained more than 2,500 individuals, said Mills. That number includes pre-deployment training and training required by CASCOM institutions.

"We conduct training for the (Logistics NCO Academy's) Senior Leaders Course and Advanced Leaders Course and also the (Army Logistics University's) Basic Officer Leaders Course," he said. "We also conduct a pre-command course for colonels and above."

The amount and variety of training the WTC conducts is surely an indication that it has a unique mission, said Mills.

"We do something the Army needs to get back into doing," he said. "A lot of the units don't have time to train. Why? Deployments, deployments, deployments. We fill a critical void."

Filling that critical void means lots of work for the instructors and an appreciation for what it means to prepare Soldiers to survive in combat, said Staff Sgt. Colin Dayton, a weapons instructor.

"I thought I would never have this opportunity to do this type of training for other people," he said. "I've undergone plenty of this type of training myself, but I never had the opportunity to affect more people than being here."

Having the opportunity to train large numbers of Soldiers has a wide range of benefits. It helps trainers to appreciate the Army as a profession for one, it increases their skills to very high levels, and it motivates them to stay sharp, said Mills

"What I noticed about the instructors here is that they are eager to learn, willing to train and always trying to improve their technique," he said. "It's very rare that you see staff sergeants who are hungry and excited about training."

The Army's Best Warrior Competition ultimately benefits from the quality of WTC instructors. They are afforded the opportunity to hone skills in the normal course of their duties, subsequently using them to train some of the best Soldiers the Army has to offer. Furthermore, they get to work with some of the Army's top leadership figures in doing so. For one instructor, it is an honor complete.

"We get to interact with the Sergeant Major of the Army," said Staff Sgt. Harold King of the competition that is the SMA's signature event. "I believe that working with him under the Best Warrior Competition is a really big fulfillment. Not many staff sergeants can say they worked with the Sergeant Major of the Army in the Best Warrior Competition."

Best Warrior is an event that has put Fort Lee in the national spotlight. Accordingly, Mills said the scheduled October showcase is a very large blip on the WTC's radar.

"Our peak season for normal training is during the summer months," said Mills, "but we prep for the Best Warrior Competition all year and ramp it up starting in August."

The ramp-up will include supporting the Training and Doctrine Command's Best Warrior Competition scheduled to take place at Fort A.P. Hill next month.

It also includes a visit by the SMA himself sometime prior to the DA Best Warrior Competition. Mills said this year's competition is shaping up to be anything but run-of-the-mill.

"We just had a visit by the Army Asymmetric Warfare Group, and they talked about how to enhance each of the scenarios featured during Best Warrior," said Mills of the Army's operational analysis activity. "We are seeing bigger differences than any year Best Warrior has been held at Fort Lee."

"Best Warrior" (Oct. 2-7) will feature 24 Soldiers from Army commands all over the world who will compete in a skills contest in two divisions. It is scheduled to take place at Fort Lee for the ninth consecutive year.