A hurricane in the region wasn’t enough to delay the start of the first-ever Army-wide Best Squad Competition. The contest got underway at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, on the 29th of September and is scheduled to continue through the 7th of October. The top 12 squads from across the various Army commands are putting their best foot forward in a series of combat-related events that include a 12-mile foot march, detailed individual warrior tasks, tests of weapons proficiency, squad battle drills, and the Army Combat Fitness Test.
Instead of a typical nine-soldier squad (a squad leader and two fire teams of 4 soldiers each), the event will have squads composed of five soldiers competing against each other. So why, you ask, does the “Best Squad Competition” not test actual regulation-sized elements? To answer that burning question, we go to Sergeant Major of the Army (SMA) Micheal Grinston. The SMA says it’s to allow non-infantry units to compete on a more level playing field. Oh, and these five soldier squads can be led by a sergeant first class and not a staff sergeant as you would typically expect.
Ok, wait one, I’ve got to ask “why?” again. Got it. The SMA says it is because a sergeant first class may lead some non-infantry sections. I’ve got another question, but I’m not even going to ask. It had something to do with comparing apples to oranges. If you think I’m disrespecting the Army here, I’m not. I just pulled out my DD214 (Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty, for you civilian types), and right there in black and white, it reads 17 years, 6 months, and 28 days of service, and that’s not counting 4 years as a cadet. I love the Army; I sacrificed and great amount for the Army (and reaped many benefits as well). I just find this whole five-person squad thing a bit disconcerting. But let’s continue.
According to The Army Times, “The squad will contain one squad leader, either sergeant first class or staff sergeant; one team leader, either a sergeant or corporal; and three squad members at the rank of specialist or below.”
After phase one of the competition is completed at Fort Bragg, the surviving…err, top four highest scoring squads will head to Washington DC for a “board-style” interview that will “test their knowledge and professionalism in front of top Army leaders,” or so says army.mil.
Since being sworn in as the Army’s top enlisted soldier, Sergeant Major Grinston has worked hard to build small unit bonds through his “This is My Squad” (TIMS) initiative. He says, “It’s about engaged leaders who know their Soldiers and build cohesive teams that are highly trained, disciplined, and mentally and physically fit.” He has also been quoted as saying that the TIMS campaign “was designed to replicate strong, cohesive teams often found in Special Forces units.”
Speaking of Army Special Forces, I found this really interesting Tweet pinned to the top of the USASOC Twitter feed. It answers the question, “Why the hell would anyone want to do that?” Check it out; it’s less than 2:00 minutes long.
What’s your “Why” pic.twitter.com/sChecq9INi
— USASOC (@USASOCNews) September 17, 2022
And now I’m forced to ruin that two minutes of coolness (Ok, just the last five or so seconds) because the guys are shown silhouetting themselves against the night sky as they are walking too high on the ridgeline. They are well aware of this but were most likely told to do it for the video. Yeah, it looks cool on film, but it’s harder to hit a target you can’t see. Just saying.
— SMA Michael Grinston (@16thSMA) October 1, 2022
Ok, so we know that four squads of five soldiers each are heading to Washingtonton DC (the Pentagon, to be more precise) to be interviewed/reviewed. The board, including SMA Grinston (as well as other senior enlisted leaders), will select the Best Squad.
For the past several years, the Army has been running a number of “Best of” type competitions. There is the annual Army’s Best Medic Competition, and it is 100% exactly what it sounds like. The Best Ranger competition started in 1982 and is held annually at Fort Benning, GA. The contest pits 50 two-man teams against each other in a 62-hour evaluation of physical fitness, military tasks, and marksmanship skills. The specific events change a bit from year to year.
SOFREP will keep an eye on the Best Squad Competition and be sure to let you know who the winning team is.