Competition is healthy. It makes us strive for more, train harder and become more proficient. When it comes to the Army and field artillery paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division, it is one of the most competitive groups you will find.
So, to fuel their competitive fire, the top field artillery paratroopers from across the division competed in the 2013 Best of the Best competition on Fort Bragg Nov. 12 to 15.
To get to the event, paratroopers had to be selected at battalion level on their overall scores to see which were the best crews to compete in the event.
The first day kicked off with all the paratroopers competing in an Army physical fitness test for points.
Spc. Toran Eidsmoe, a member of the Colt team for 2nd Battalion, 319th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, along with the rest of his guys were ready for the event to start.
“We had about a month to prepare for everything,” said Eidsmoe. “We definitely felt (ready to go) Tuesday morning, we got in here ready to go with high spirits.”
After the mass physical fitness test, participants were split off into the events they were being graded on.
Spc. Michael South, assistant gunner for Battery C, 3rd Battalion, 321st Field Artillery Regiment, 18th Fires Brigade, felt they were the “Best of the Best” coming into the competition and was proud of their work prior to coming out and competing.
“We already train (for this) a few times a week. When we train, we train hard and that’s what we have to do,” said South. “We just certified on our gun a few weeks ago and got one of the highest scores in the battalion and that’s what helped us get here.”
Despite being one of, if not the youngest group of guys out here, their hard work has South confident that they will walk away with top honors.
“Our smoke calls us the young guns. We have a lot of young guys and our chief is an E-5 sergeant,” said South. “It’s just an honor to be out here representing our battalion, our brigade and to be the best of the best in the 82nd Airborne Division, which we will be.”
Those sentiments were shared by everyone on his team, especially Spc. Robert Wellman, cannon crew member.
“Our main thing is that out of all the gun crews you see here, we’re the only non-airborne group in an airborne division,” said Wellman. “So we want to prove our place that even though we’re not airborne qualified, we can kick your butt on the gun line any day.”
Wellman, who was once part of the 4th Brigade Combat Team in the 82nd Airborne Division, said he wants to work especially hard to show them what they lost.
Overseeing the events was Sgt. 1st Class Carlos Cruz, the brigade master gunner for 18th Fires Bde. Cruz understood that everything going into this training showed off everything the division is capable of and coincides with a line of effort.
“This training ties into the 82nd Airborne Divisions third line of effort which is ready and resilient paratroopers,” said Cruz. “While letting the competitors see what their peers have done to prepare for this event.”
With Fort Bragg being nicknamed the Center of the Army Universe, Cruz believes the winners of this event can keep up if not be better than anyone else.
“I would put any competitor that wins in multiple sections here against any division throughout the Army.
“The 82nd has been known as the Center of the Universe. We do the best realistic training that we can get and it shows here in this culminating event,” Cruz said.
The competition promotes the development of section skills, esprit de corps and cohesion across the division and rewards paratroopers who achieve the highest standards with the title “Best of the Best.