CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait –
The dawn of another day is upon Camp Arifjan, Kuwait. However, the feel was quite different from any other day; when eight participants, after four days of competition at the "Third Army/USARCENT Non-commissioned Officer and Soldier of the Year – “Best Warrior" - arrived for the awards ceremony, June 8.
Inside the chapel, five NCOs and three soldiers stood at attention under bright stage lights. Although anticipation permeated through the crowd of more than 200, each NCO remained a perfect picture of stoicism; clenched fists, tight jaw, flawless uniform and a "thousand-yard" stare. However, one major difference was apparent among the five soldiers; one was female.
"I understand why my chain of command chose me," said Sgt. Misty Avila, chemical operations specialist and combatives instructor for ASG-Kuwait. "I like anything that can help me teach my soldiers and if I can learn something new out of this competition and bring it back to my soldiers, I will do it."
"Third Army/USARCENT 2012 Non-commissioned Officer and Soldier of the Year – “Best Warrior” - Competition" is a four-day contest that gives NCOs and soldiers the opportunity to demonstrate their warrior skills through several strenuous events at Camp Buehring, Kuwait. The competition was held June 4-7.
"Today's soldiers are challenged in many different ways," said Command Sgt. Major David L. Pierce, senior enlisted advisor of Area Support Group Kuwait. "This identifies the individual soldier and gives them an opportunity to demonstrate their ability; to show how proficient they are in their warrior skills."
Avila, a Fort Worth, Texas, native, conceded to feeling a bit of added pressure being the only
female but quickly followed by stating that she thrives under pressure.
"She is hard as nails; she is dedicated; she is a professional," said Pierce.
The four other competitors, along with Avila, spent time in Camp Buehring participating in events such as a weapon qualification, land navigation, a physical fitness test and a board.
While each soldier prepared for months prior to the event, Avila said the warrior skills improvement did not end on arrival.
"Even though me and the other competitors are tired, we will go right back into studying every night," said Avila.
Avila, who is in her 10th-year in the Army (eight years active; two years reserve), admitted that being a competitor is a compliment to her career but after experiencing support throughout she said she the "need to win."
Her husband, who is an active-duty service member at their home base in Fort Bragg, N.C., currently takes care of their son and aids in stabilizing Avila's endless confidence.
"My husband said 'I know you are going to do good, so I won't say good luck,” said Avila.
Although scores were kept secret at the range, with prior weapons qualification scores of 37 and 39 out of 40, Avila expressed poise in her shooting. "When I am in garrison, I actually teach all my female soldiers how to shoot," said Avila.
The physical fitness test, which occurred on the last day, turned out to be the hardest event according to Avila, who finished with 50 push-ups, 89 sit-ups and ran an 18 minute, 59 second two-mile.
"I feel so sore," said Avila, after the physical fitness test. "I am never one to complain, but after the land navigation course yesterday and today's PT test, I am hurting."
However strenuous the competition became though Avila said she overcame each obstacle through her family foundation.
"If it wasn't for my husband and the support that I have, I don't think I could do what I do," said Avila, choking back emotion.
The silence in the chapel is broken by words through a microphone. The five NCOs stood at attention facing the crowd. The audience, comprised of service members and civilians, erupted with applause. For that moment, whether male or female soldier, it was obvious the words that Command Sgt. Major Stephen Frennier, senior enlisted advisor of Third Army/USARCENT, uttered the first day of the event were true: "There may be one winner but there are absolutely no losers."