Fort Riley, Kansas



‘Durable’ Soldier prepares for Army Best Warrior Competition

By Sgt. 1st Class Victor Gardner | 1ST INF. DIV. SUST. BDE. PUBLIC AFFAIRS | September 08, 2017

     Cpl. Kristen Gray, finance clerk, 9th Financial Management Services Unit, Special Troops Battalion, 1st Infantry Division Sustainment Brigade, is preparing for the biggest challenge of her military career: the Army Best Warrior Competition held at Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia, from Sept. 30 through Oct. 12.

       Gray is one of 10 Soldiers across the Army who has mastered several layers of competition throughout the year to qualify for this event.

     Gray officially began her journey in April when she competed in the Army South Soldier of the Year Competition. Over the past year the corporal has competed in seven boards, beginning at the Battalion Soldier of the Month level. She said her desire to compete came from her love of physical challenges and her aspiration to hone her Soldier skills to become tactically proficient.

      “Throughout my life, I have been lucky enough to have a great number of inspirational female role models,” Gray said. “The first of whom is my sister, Leann Gray. Other strong, confident women in the military, in athletic arenas and in other fields have inspired me to push beyond expectations and never allow others to put a limit on what I can accomplish.”

     The military has demonstrated faith and confidence in females to now take on more roles in combat arms,” Gray said. For that reason, “I want to take advantage of these opportunities to grow as an individual, to challenge myself, and to also be a positive example for the millions of young girls in this country who have ever been told that they couldn’t do something because of their gender.”

     Making it this far in a rigorous competition such the Army’s Best Warrior Competition does not happen without help. Sgt. Sean Jin, formerly of the 9th FMSU, was her first mentor for competitive boards.

     “When I met Sgt. Jin, I realized that we both overcame obstacles and faced similar setbacks in our professional life,” Gray said. “What I admired so much about Sgt. Jin was his exhaustive desire to better himself and his unrelenting will. Sgt. Jin was recently accepted to earn his medical degree through the Army and his resolve to never give up on his dream paid off, motivating me even further to push myself, set high goals and never give up on them.”

     Currently, Gray is on mission in Honduras assigned to the J-8 Finance team, but continues to prepare for the final competition, even though she is deployed.

    “Preparing for the competition while deployed has been a challenge on many fronts,” Gray said. “During the duty day, I have to stay committed to my finance job and use my off hours to train on Soldier tasks and preparing physically. Additionally, Soto Cano Air Base does not have a weapons range, land navigation course, obstacle courses, crew served weapons and other training aids that one would find at a CONUS (Continental United States) location. The terrain itself is flat and there is only a four-mile loop to ruck or run so doing multiple loops can become monotonous. I need to be creative with my workouts to simulate the difficult terrain that I will face at A.P. Hill.”

     The corporal’s strategy for winning the Army Best Warrior Competition is simple — create a strong physical base while remaining prepared mentally to be resilient and calm under pressure.

     “During the competition, we will put our all into every event,” Gray said. “Yet, in the midst of this, we are all comrades in arms, a fact that is greatly apparent in the atmosphere and in the respect competitors have for each other.”

      Finding the motivation to finish the competition comes from many places. Gray thanks her unit at Soto Cano Air Base, and her home unit, 9th FMSU, for all of the support and direction she has received.

      In the end there can only be one winner.

     “At the end of the day,” Gray said, “the great thing about this competition is that each warrior will put blood, sweat and tears into preparation.”


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