FORT POLK, La. –– Combating disabling heat, fatigue, the elements plus lugging a 40- to 50-pound rucksack, Spc. Henry Odele fought victoriously to become the United States Medical Command Soldier of the Year at the Best Warrior Competition held June 3-8 in San Antonio, Texas.
Competing against eight other Soldiers representing the subordinate commands of MEDCOM, Odele met the challenges and overcame all obstacles in his way.
“Land navigation is my most difficult warrior skill, and being a laboratory technician doesn’t exactly (offer) field time. I also work shift work since someone is always on duty in the lab,” said Odele. “We did both day and night land navigation and were all over the terrain at Camp Bullis. It was hot, muggy and there were giant spider webs that you could get caught in, especially at night. I was surviving on very little sleep and fatigue was starting to get the best of me, but I kept hearing (Command Sgt. Maj.) Jayme Johnson’s voice telling me that if I didn’t win, don’t bother coming back, so I gathered all the strength I had left and marched on. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I could hear his voice telling me ‘you can do it!’” he said.
“This competition was much more competitive than the Southern Regional Medical Command Best Warrior competition in March. A lot of the Soldiers had badges, deployment patches and more experience in a field environment than I have,” said Odele.
During the SRMC competition, Odele excelled in the modern Army combative;, however, at the MEDCOM competition, this event was one of the last battles. “I was fatigued and physically exhausted when it came time for this portion of the battle. Unfortunately, I lost my first bout in overtime.”
This year’s MEDCOM competition was demanding due to the triple digit temperatures coupled with the series of challenging events meant to test the physical and mental stamina and warrior task knowledge of each competitor to select the best of the best to represent MEDCOM at the Army-wide Best Warrior Competition. The competition consisted of the Army physical fitness test, weapons qualification, warrior tasks, an oral board, mystery events, combatives, day and night land navigation, and a written exam with essay.
“We are proud of each and every one of our competitors,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Donna Brock, MEDCOM command sergeant major. “These Soldiers and NCOs embody the very best of Army medicine.”
“Specialist Odele is an outstanding Soldier, but there is a long line of NCOs behind him making sure that he excels at everything he does,” said Col. David Dunning, Bayne-Jones Army Community Hospital commander.
Finding time to train, especially in a hospital environment, can be challenging, Odele said. “(I had) great mentors and my NCOIC gave me the time I needed to train by working out my duty schedule,” he said.
Odele is already gearing up for the All Army Best Warrior competition set for Oct. 15-18 at Fort Lee, Va. His counterpart, Staff Sgt. Craig Wayman, from the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, Fort Detrick, Md., won the title of MEDCOM NCO of the Year, are hoping to train together since they will be working as a team, said Odele. “The All Army competition will have Special Forces, Rangers and others who train almost continuously. We have to prepare both physically and mentally,” he said.
In addition to being named MEDCOM Soldier of the Year, Odele has also been selected for the Green to Gold Program, an Army incentive that moves enlisted Soldiers into the ranks of commissioned officers through additional training and education.