FORT LEE, Va. (Oct. 8, 2009) – For one Soldier in the 2009 Department of the Army Best Warrior competition, the road to personal best began and ended on her home turf.
Sgt. Lauren Aldaco, a military police investigator assigned to Fort Lee’s 217th Military Police Detachment, competed with 23 other Soldiers and noncommissioned officers from 12 Army commands worldwide Sept. 28 - Oct. 2 in what has been described as “the Super Bowl of Army competitions.”
Aldaco bore the blisters, bruises and pains of competition with the desire and determination to win, said her sponsor 1st Sgt. Brent Hull, 217th MP Detachment first sergeant.
“She has a ton of heart and a ton of determination,” Hull said. “If she puts her mind to something she’s going to go after it.”
Aldaco felt confident at the start, beginning Best Warrior with a board appearance in front of six sergeants major chaired by Sergeant Major of the Army Kenneth O. Preston.
“I usually do well at board appearances and felt good about how I did,” she said. “They chose me to answer questions at the mock board for photographers, so I must have done well.”
On the bus ride to Williams Stadium for the Army Physical Fitness Test, Aldaco and the other warriors were shocked by the sight of hundreds of cheering spectators. The bleachers were filled with training Soldiers from the 23rd Quartermaster Brigade and the Logistics Noncommissioned Officer Academy.
“It was a little added pressure, but after we went in and they were shouting out our numbers, it was inspiring,” she said. “It made you want to push through and work harder.”
Aldaco remained motivated even as she combated a pre-existing knee injury that preyed on her mind during the competition.
“I had to push through the pain on the two-miler but my knee held up,” Aldaco said. “I was happy with my time and my points. The thing that worried me was the run, and I am not ashamed of what I got.”
Aldaco scored 97 points for the two-mile run and had an APFT overall score of 269.
The home-field advantage may have worked in Aldaco’s favor during the Urban Warfare Orienteering Course. Well-versed in the terrain of Fort Lee, Aldaco had no problem getting around the course. But when the competition relocated to the Range Complex for Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills, she was literally in the dark.
After the nighttime land navigation course concluded, the warriors were transported to their new quarters off post. Given just a few hours of sleep inside Force Provider tents, they were awoken with flash bangs to began a new day of challenges.
“I expected that we would get less sleep,” Aldaco said. “I kept my mind going and just stayed alert. I didn’t want to be dragging so I wouldn’t let myself get sleepy.”
On Thursday, the competitors participated in range challenges including a stress fire and night fire exercises. During the stress fire, the competitors were required to drag dummies, including one weighing 200 pounds, over a wall to increase their heart rate before firing their weapons.
It was more of the same on Friday for the Mystery Event. The competitors had five minutes to get dressed and get ready to move out.
“We just threw our clothes and gear on and got out the door,” Aldaco said.
The warriors loaded into a tactical vehicle and headed into the darkness.
“They were being sneaky; I didn’t know where we were going,” she said.
When they finally stopped driving around, Aldaco didn’t recognize where she was.
“I wasn’t sure where we were and then I saw a boat,” she said. “The trainers and graders told us to get on the boat. I kept thinking ‘where is there a lake?’”
The competitors loaded into the boat’s cabin and were briefed on the day’s mission.
“The motor was running and I think they moved the boat,” Aldaco said. “They were keeping us in the dark trying to get our emotions and our stresses going to see how we would react.”
The competitors were put into four-person teams and led to the first of six mystery events.
“We left in 15 minute intervals and we road-marched about a half-mile and then we reached an open field. They launched a grenade and we reacted to indirect fire,” she said.
The next exercise began with the teams searching the Military Operations on Urban Terrain site to detain a high profile enemy. Aldaco was chosen as team leader for the exercise by her teammates.
“My team picked me as the leader because of my military police background,” she said. “As we were clearing the building we engaged the high profile enemy and finished the exercise.”
The team moved on to another challenge where they evaluated causalities. The warriors evaluated two role-players with abdominal and leg injuries.
“The site was secured so we just had to treat the wounded,” Aldaco said. “It was realistic, the role-players were in their roles 100 percent. They were screaming and yelling. I just kept trying to reassure the casualty that I wasn’t going to let anything happen to him.”
One of the SMA’s objectives was to challenge the competitors and strengthen their skills and knowledge in all tasks Soldiers face in today’s operating environment. Aldaco said her Best Warrior experience made her a better Soldier.
“I received really good training out of this,” Aldaco said. “I can take this back to my unit and share.”
With the experiences fresh in her mind, Aldaco is contemplating further competitions and with the support of her Family, her unit and Team Lee, Aldaco said she feels like anything is possible.
“I’d definitely like to compete in the NCO boards,” she said. “I wouldn’t rule out coming back to Best Warrior next year.”