By Sgt. 1st Class Kelvin Ringold, 13th ESC Public Affairs

Staff Sgt. Richard Mendez, 53rd Quartermaster Company, 61st Quartermaster Battalion, and Spc. Steven Martinez, 1st Medical Brigade, smile as they are announced the 2021 13th ESC BWC winners.

FORT HOOD, Texas – Traditionally, Soldiers and noncommissioned officers compete in challenging events that test them physically and mentally.  Through the pandemic, many annual Army customs and traditions were put on hold, and now, Soldiers and NCOs again prepare to go head-to-head for an esteemed honor.

Six Soldiers and NCOs from across the 13th Expeditionary Sustainment Command participated in the 2021 Best Warrior Competition May 23-26.

After last year’s event was limited to just a virtual board due to the pandemic, 13th ESC leadership knew this was the perfect opportunity to bring back this annual tradition in its complete form.

“It is important as we start to pull back the restrictions from COVID-19 that we jump back into the norm,” said Sgt. Maj. Erick M. Detrich, the 13th ESC Operations Sergeant Major.

Being able to incorporate basic Soldiering skills like; weapons qualifications, stress shooting, the Army Combat Fitness Test, land navigation, combatives, a written essay, an eight mile road march and a question and answer board, ultimately tests Soldiers more than a virtual board.

“Mentally and physically challenging competitions have always, and will always be part of the Army culture and building cohesive teams,” Detrich said.  “Not only does the BWC highlight the best Soldier and NCO, but shows off our ability to train, lead and build Strong Sergeants and Strong Soldiers.”

Staff Sgt. Richard Mendez, 53rd Quartermaster Company, 61st Quartermaster Battalion, had last competed in a BWC in 2014 where he placed third.

After competing on short notice and finishing the unforgiving ruck march first for the NCOs, the events reminded the Stockdale, Texas native that he still has a lot left in the tank.

“I was proud to see my body wasn’t ready to quit during the ruck,” Mendez said.  “It proved I’m not over the hill and it’s not over for me.”

Wurzburg, Germany native, Spc. Steven Martinez, 1st Medical Brigade, has been in the Army for over four years, and competing is something that’s in his DNA.

“At heart I’m a competitor,” Martinez said.  “I’ve competed my whole life through sports.”

In the combatives competition, Martinez found himself in the final match and walked away victorious.

“I didn’t think I was going to win against a much bigger opponent,” Martinez said.  “I have a ton of heart and I really do love what I’m doing here competing in the BWC.”

Ultimately, out of three NCOs and three junior enlisted Soldiers, Mendez and Martinez were announced the winners of the competition.

In the previous NCO evaluation report, the Army defined excellence as, “something accomplished only by a few,” and out of a command of approximately 4000 Soldiers, these competitors achieved just that – excellence.

“What you all have done and competed for is something truly accomplished by a few,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Todd M. Garner, 13th ESC’s Command Sergeant Major.  “It’s easy to sit on the sidelines and critique, but only you few stepped into the arena.  I commend you all.  All of you are among the best.”

Next, Mendez and Martinez are scheduled to compete at the III Corps and Ft. Hood level BWC, and each is prepared to take on that challenge.

“I am happy with the win,” Mendez said.  “Although I was shaking off the cobwebs, this competition proved a lot of knowledge is still in the back of my mind.  I just need to study more to bring it out.  I can still improve.”

After winning without a lot of time to prepare, Martinez knows exactly what he will focus of in preparation for the next level.

“I will be doing a lot more physical training,” Martinez said.  “I will also train my endurance and study more on Army doctrinal publications and general Army knowledge.”