A tale of true winners

Published 8:09 pm Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Nine minutes into the U.S. Army Regional Command East’s Best Warrior competition, most of us would already have been physically spent. Two-person teams spent the first part of that competition in Afghanistan doing three-minute sets of sit-ups, push-ups and pull-ups.

But at the point where most of us would have collapsed from exhaustion, 26 teams of contestants — including Team Corsair, which comprised a second lieutenant from Michigan and a flight operations and radio controller from Suffolk — the end of that nine-minute exercise blitz was just the beginning of a grueling 10-hour physical and mental challenge.

The contest included a memory challenge; a three-mile, 150-pound litter carry; a six mile march; a three-and-a-half-mile run; various equipment- and weapons-related challenges; and an obstacle course that required participants to use problem-solving skills to complete it. And for Team Corsair, also known as Team 26 because it drew the last available starting time, all of the above would be complicated by the fact that it would be done in the dark, cold, rain of an Afghanistan night. Team 26 completed at least one part of the event while the Bagram base was under indirect fire.

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Spc. Craig Cottrell and his race partner from Michigan, 2nd Lt. Robert Reed, faced some pretty serious hurdles in their attempt to win the Best Warrior competition. In fact, they came up short of winning the actual award.

But the effort they put into competing for that award, even in the face of such obstacles, is a fine example of the commitment brought to the job by the vast majority of those serving in America’s volunteer armed forces.

Cottrell and Reed might not have won the Army’s competition, but they are true winners for those of us back in the United States who have read their story. We’re proud to know they’re serving in America’s armed forces.