Team from Alaska wins inaugural Gainey Cup Competition

benw@ledger-enquirer.comMarch 5, 2013 

Soldiers from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, were named the best cavalry scout team in the Army Tuesday after winning the inaugural Gainey Cup Competition at Fort Benning.

The five-man team led by Staff Sgt. Zachary Adkins posted the best score from 19 teams taking part in the grueling competition.

“It’s just an honor to compete,” said Adkins of 1st Squadron, 40th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division-Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska. “Obviously, it’s a little bit more of an honor to come out on top. It was tight from start to finish so everybody was right on the heels.”

The four-day event, which started Friday in Harmony Church, included testing soldiers in physical fitness and using different weapons and cavalry scout skills on the firing ranges. A physical fitness test included pull ups, dips, bench presses, tire flipping and pulling a Humvee.

Adkins said the most challenging part of the contest was mastering the traditional scout tasks. Cavalry scouts play a key role in gathering information on the enemy and relaying it to commanders. Scouts use Humvees, Bradley Fighting Vehicles and other equipment to carry out their duties. Pfc. Joseph Calderon, a crew member, said the competition was great for bringing soldiers together.

“It always feels good to win,” he said. “We came here super confident. It’s not just an individual thing. It’s a team effort, and we all came together.” Second place went to the 4th Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C., and third was captured by a team from Fort Benning’s 3rd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Armor Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division at Kelley Hill.

The first-place winners were each presented a .44-caliber Colt revolver and the Order of St. George, recognizing the best scout team in the Army. Col. Paul J. Laughlin II, commander of the U.S. Armor School at Fort Benning, noted the importance of an event designed, planned and executed by noncommissioned officers. It included teams from the Army and the Marines. While many soldiers are not yet NCOs, Laughlin said the younger soldiers will soon become the trainers.

“You are a legacy,” he said. “You will become the trainers. Individual small unit training belongs to NCOs. Be sure you take that back to the Army and Marine Corps.”

The competition is named for retired Command Sgt. Maj. William “Joe” Gainey, the first senior enlisted adviser to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He served in the position from Oct. 1, 2005, to April 25, 2008, when he retired. During a career with nearly 33 years of service, Gainey was a driver, loader, gunner and tank commander with the 2nd Armored Division.

Gainey said the competition was the best he had ever seen in his career.

“The people that designed it did exactly what I asked,” he said. “Keep it to the basics and make it challenging.”

The retired command sergeant major said he’s pleased with all 19 teams that competed in the contest. “Every one of these young men have given 150 percent,” he said. “They are all winners.”

Crossing the finish line left Spc. Samuel Shuler with a sense of relief for his Georgia National Guard team. “I’m very proud we finished the way we did,” Shuler said. “I’m definitely mentally strong, and I pushed myself stronger than I thought I could.”

The competition was impressive for Sgt. Maj. Michael Clemens of the 316 Cavalry Brigade, which hosted the event. It gave soldiers a chance to look at what they need to improve and what they are good at performing. “Across the board, the professionalism, the discipline and just the abilities of all these soldiers here and Marine Corps have done nothing but impress me the whole time,” he said.

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