Best Warriors

The newly awarded CASCOM Best Warrior winners – Staff Sgt. Japheth Edwards, Echo Company, 16th Ordnance Battalion; and Spc. Colby Matthews, 508th Transportation Co., 266th Quartermaster Bn. – pose with statuettes presented by Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Perry III, CASCOM CSM, and Maj. Gen. Rodney D. Fogg, CASCOM and Fort Lee commanding general, during an outdoor ceremony May 23 in front of the CASCOM headquarters. The two along with three others competed in the Soldier skills competition featuring several technical, tactical and administrative events over three days.

A motor transport operator and a wheeled vehicle mechanic outperformed fellow competitors in a long list of field and administrative tasks over three days, earning the titles of CASCOM Best Warrior.

Spc. Colby Matthews, 508th Transportation Company, 266th Quartermaster Battalion, and Staff Sgt. Japheth Edwards, Echo Co., 16th Ordnance Bn., were announced as the Soldier and Noncommissioned Officer of the Year, respectively, during a May 23 ceremony at Mifflin Hall.

The Best Warrior Competition is a skills showcase in which Soldiers compete in events measuring their technical and tactical proficiency. Tasks include a physical fitness test, weapons qualification, a board appearance and a 12-mile ruck march.

Maj. Gen. Rodney D. Fogg, CASCOM and Fort Lee commanding general, proclaimed the winners along with Command Sgt. Maj. Michael J. Perry III, CASCOM CSM. He commended the two Soldier and three NCO competitors for their efforts before declaring the victors, noting they “represent the Warrior Ethos and values” required to compete while acknowledging the event as an example of what Soldiers here and elsewhere accomplish on a routine basis.

“Everyday Soldiers are doing great things here at Fort Lee within all the units and around the Army, and we appreciate what you do because we can’t get it done without great NCOs and great Soldiers,” he told the audience. “That’s the heartbeat of everything we do in the United States Army.”

Matthews, an Atlanta native with two years of service, said he intended to compete in last year’s event but an injury prevented him from doing so, making his win this year all the sweeter.

“This is something I’ve been working toward,” he said. “I’ve been training trying to get to this point; now I’m here, and it’s time to go to the next level.”

Best Warrior is just one goal Matthews has set for himself. His long-term goals reach far higher than the Soldier skills competition.

“My ultimate goal is to become a warrant officer in the field of aviation,” he said, noting his aspiration to become a pilot.

Edwards, who competed last year as an NCO, said he felt compelled to make a return appearance because he nearly won in 2018.

“I pushed myself last year to the point I felt I was close to winning, so I said to ‘Let’s go all out this year like I did the previous year and see what happens,’” he said.

Beginning a training program shortly after last year’s competition, Edwards said he worked harder and spent more time on events in which he fell short. More importantly, he wanted to try again because he did not want to carry any regrets.

“I could not leave Fort Lee without trying to earn the title of Best Warrior,” he said. “I didn’t want any ‘what ifs;’ I wanted the satisfaction of knowing that at least I tried.”

Matthews and Edwards were not only awarded handsome bronze statuettes for their work; the two also received monetary and other prizes from sponsors such as the Association of the U.S. Army, Family and MWR, the Army and Air Force Exchange Service; USO; and the Fort Lee Credit Union.  

This year’s awards ceremony, normally held inside, was staged outside Mifflin Hall’s front entrance, complete with the 392nd Army Band, bleachers, ceremonial flags and display tables manned by various installation agencies.

Additionally, the competition departed from the Ultimate Warrior moniker and the inclusion of other competitions in favor of a format closely mirroring the higher-level Army Best Warrior meets. It was all part of messaging intended to send the best trained Soldier to the next level while conveying Best Warrior’s importance as a viable training experience in the eyes of the command and Soldiers, Perry said.

“We wanted to ensure our competition was, one, nested with TRADOC’s and the Department of the Army’s,” he said. “Two, we asked, ‘How can we better prepare our Soldier and NCO representatives to compete at the higher levels?’

“It was a collective effort to create a ‘shoot, move, communicate’ -type of competition that was rigorous and challenging and adhered to the Total Soldier concept,” he further explained. “That was our approach to this year’s event.”

As winners of the CASCOM event, Matthews and Edwards will represent the command at the TRADOC level BWC in June. Those who earn titles there will move on to the DA event in October.