For three days, squads from across the 3rd Infantry Division put themselves to the tests, physical, mental and more, to earn the distinction of “Best Squad.”
The five-man squads were made up of two non-commissioned officers and three enlisted individuals. Each of the division’s brigade had a best squad to go up against the other brigades’ best squads, with the winner vying for the title Army- wide later this fall at Fort Stewart.
The competition was once the Best Soldier. But Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Grinston expanded the competition to the squad level.
“When you get all the squad leaders who are good to go against each other, it creates a good competition and excellence builds excellence,” said Staff Sgt. Brandyn Vanderbilt of 3/67 Armor Battalion, whose squad represented 2nd Brigade. “Esprit de corps is very big and in how you work together as a team and how you operate as a team and how you conduct all these physical events together is very big.”
Among the three-day events squads had to tackle were a number of soldier skills and battle drills, an Army combat fitness test, land navigation, marksmanship and a ruck march, a six-and-ahalf mile jaunt with their gear strapped on.
The ruck march was Vanderbilt’s favorite event.
“It’s a mental battle the whole way,” he said. “If you push and stay together and push each other and motivate each other, it brings home that teamwork. Six and a half miles.”
Vanderbilt was asked before the competition’s close which squad he thought was best, and he said his own. The judges and evaluators agreed, naming the 3/67 Armor squad he led as the 3rd ID’s best squad.
Those squad leaders who go through the competition can bring something back to their units for other squad leaders to put into place, Vanderbilt said.
“Once they get back to the unit, they can teach all those tasks they learned out here and drive them home to the guys back there,” he said. “It makes our units better, makes our companies better. It’s huge, especially for other squad leaders who may be back at the unit who see other squad leaders operating at this level It drives home to them that everybody needs to be at their best to make the Army better.”
Vanderbilt and his squad will go up against Best Squads from across the Army in September.