‘Dagger’ Soldiers compete in fire support team competition
Staff Sgt. Michael Rettus, fire support sergeant, Troop C, 5th Sqdn., 4th Cav. Regt., left, with the assistance of Spc. Allan Mautino, fire support specialist, Troop C, 5th Sqdn., 4th Cav. Regt., right, belly crawls under barb wire Aug. 27 at the Fort Riley Confidence and Obstacle Course. The obstacle course was part of the 2nd ABCT’s Top FIST competition. Many of the Soldiers who competed will be conducting joint training exercises in west Africa later this year. Photo by: Staff Sgt. Tamika Dillard, 2ND ABCT.
Story by: Staff Sgt. Tamika Dillard
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About 32 fire support team Soldiers competed in the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division's Top Fire Support Team Competition Aug. 27 at Fort Riley.
The competition is designed to maintain Soldier readiness and core competencies in the event they are called upon by their nation. Many of the Soldiers will be conducting joint training exercises in West Africa later this year, as part of the brigade's regional alignment with Africa.
One of the toughest challenges throughout the competition seemed to be the Fort Riley Confidence and Obstacle Course.
"The main intent for the confidence course was to build the Soldiers' leadership and teamwork skills, motivation, communication and self-confidence while in a stressful environment," said Sgt. 1st Class Richard Elsmore, fire support noncommissioned officer in charge, 2nd ABCT. "The obstacles at this course provided them with a snippet of what to expect while in battle."
Elsmore said although all of his Soldiers are very proficient in their jobs, it's a different story when they have to perform (a job-specific task) after climbing up and over a 30-foot wall.
Prior to beginning the course, the Soldiers were broken down into 10 small teams. They were given instruction on how to complete each obstacle, as well as any modifications to the obstacle, such as using the ladder if a Soldier couldn't climb up the rope. Each fire support team was required to complete each obstacle of the course to receive points towards being the next top fire support team.
"The confidence and obstacle course consisted of 12 obstacles total," Elsmore said. "Eight of the 12 obstacles tested Soldiers on core competencies, such as upper and lower body strength, leadership skills and mental toughness. The remaining obstacles tested Soldiers on job-specific tasks."
Many of the FIST Soldiers had been through the obstacle course once or twice before, but this time seemed to prove tougher and more challenging.
"I have been through this course five times," said Spc. Allan Mautino, fire support specialist, Troop C, 5th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd ABCT. "I had a tough time climbing the confidence ladder. I am short, and as you get to the top of the ladder, the boards are spaced out farther and farther. I had to stretch my 67-inch body out as far as I could. "
For one Soldier, this challenge helped him regain his confidence and rise above his fear of heights.
"I have always had a fear of heights," said Pfc. Lance Kampas, radio telephone operator, Troop C, 5th Sqdn., 4th Cav. Regt. "So when I got to the top and looked down, I thought holy crap, I am going to fall. I had no confidence at that point."
After a few moments on the ladder, Kampas said he realized he was not alone.
"I heard my team yelling at me, telling me I can do it," Kampas said. "At that very moment, it was mind over matter. I took a deep breath, climbed over the wall and quickly climbed down the wall. I looked back at it and said to myself, 'I did that.'"
After completing the final obstacle, teams regrouped and used their last bit of energy to race across the finish line.
Whatever obstacles these Soldiers have faced and mastered here, they walked away from the experience with more confidence and a great sense of accomplishment.
"A sense of pride within themselves and their teams is what ultimately got them through this course," Elsmore said.