More than 72 hours of physical and mental competition ended for 20-plus Fort Leonard Wood Soldiers July 2 as the annual Maneuver Support Center of Excellence Best Warriors were named on Gammon Field.
However, what made this year’s competition unique was the addition of a new category – officer of the year – which was won by Capt. Andrew Friesen, 1st Battalion, 48th Infantry Regiment Company E commander.
“It’s exciting,” he said. “Minutes after the announcement, I was getting congratulatory text and Facebook messages from many of the Soldiers in my battalion.”
According to Command Sgt. Maj. James Breckinridge, MSCoE and Fort Leonard Wood, the idea to give junior officers a chance to compete for this award came out of a desire to provide more professional development opportunities for young officers stationed here.
Breckinridge said he feels there’s no better way to do that than to make them study, prepare and appear in front of a board – each of the junior officers who competed in the Best Warrior Competition were quarterly board winners.
“With the recent assignment of platoon leaders to our initial entry training units, we wanted to find additional ways to add to the junior officer’s professional development,” said Breckinridge, who participated in the boards.
Friesen, who was named a fourth-quarter winner, said he feels the inclusion of junior officers in the competition is a very important addition to show leadership by example.
“It’s helpful for junior officers to get a good pulse on the tasks and drills we expect our Soldiers to be proficient at and our NCOs to train on,” he said. “We can’t expect the same from our enlisted Soldiers if we can’t do it ourselves.”
Friesen said this experience will serve him well later in his career while also helping him remember what it means to be a Soldier.
“Officers generally don’t see boards until they reach the field-grade level,” he added. “I believe this competition gave me experience to be ready on what to expect once I reach those boards. It also opened my eyes to the planning and process that goes into such an event. Going forward, many NCOs and Soldiers I think will just appreciate that I’ve tried walking in their shoes and can appreciate what they go through.”
Friesen’s supervisor – Lt. Col. Samuel Kline, 1st Battalion, 48th Infantry Regiment commander – called this a “valuable” experience for junior officers.
“Having our junior officers participate in these types of events builds trust and respect for our officer corps while allowing for professional development,” he said. “I’m very proud of Capt. Friesen and his accomplishment.”