October 7, 2010

Norton Helps Lead Team to Warfighter 2010 Victory in Grueling Four-Day Challenge

Story and photos by Emily Athens

Reprinted from the GUIDON, the official publication of Fort Leonard Wood

True grit became a lasting and crucial theme for participating teams in the 14th annual Military Police Warfighter competition; a four-day event at Fort Leonard Wood, Sept. 13-17, presenting numerous warrior tasks, battle drills and endurance tests to participating three-man teams from installations worldwide.

Soldiers endured 11 grueling challenges throughout a 72-hour timeframe, testing them physically and mentally in their technical and tactical abilities.

“This competition has given a lot of young Soldiers the chance to come really show their stuff. They are the best of their organization. There are no losers here, but there will only be one Warfighter winning team,” said Brig. Gen. David Phillips, U.S. Army Military Police School commandant.

That winning team was Team 2 from the 385th Military Police Battalion out of Fort Stewart, Ga., consisting of teammates Staff Sgt. Adam Norton, Spc. Gene Thompson, and Spc. Joseph Kajer.

“When they announced the second place team, I looked at Gene and said we didn’t do it,” Norton said, thinking his team had dropped out of the top three only to be shocked when they heard their names as the winners.

Adam Norton, a graduate of Scotland County R-I High School, is no stranger to the competition. He competed in 2006 and 2007.

The son of Danny and Becky Norton of Memphis, Adam worked his way on to the team again in 2010.

“We had a miniature competition in our battalion [which consists of four companies] and the top six candidates were selected,” Norton said. We trained for roughly three months before our coach, Sgt. 1st Class James Havlin, selected the three finalists.”

All of that training paid off for the trio of soldiers. The first place finish earned them several prizes including a Harper Ferry flintlock pistol, the trademark of the Military Police. The 1800’s era handgun is expected to make its way back to Memphis.

“I intend for grandpa to have that,” said Adam of his plans to give the special prize to Don Norton. “I know he is going to argue with me about that, but I intend for him to have it.”

That may be a test of a different type of endurance than Norton and his teammates demonstrated in the Warfighter competition.

Of the 36 teams that came to compete, 22 finished as a team, eight finished one-man short and five had to drop out of competition.

“It’s a test on endurance, physically and mentally, so it’s a huge accomplishment just to finish,” said Regimental Command Sgt. Maj. Charles Kirkland, U.S. Army Military Police School.

Throughout the week, Soldiers covered 60 miles on foot, moving from one event site to the next.

Kicking off the challenges was the non-standard physical training test where Soldiers performed “flatbox push-ups, pull-ups and weighted sit-ups, followed by a six-mile run where they were forced to carry a 70-pound ammo can and then a 50-pound water can for 1.5 miles,” said 1st Sgt. Corey Henderson, noncom-missioned officer-in-charge of the PT test.

Day 2 presented a slew of events, beginning with the confidence course, where Soldiers maneuvered through differing strength-testing and teamwork-focused obstacles. Upon completion, they marched on to the next event, a sensitive site exploitation drill, where teams meandered the streets of a simulated Middle Eastern village, identifying elements of an area that possessed both forensic and intelligence value.

“The tactical site exploitations challenged the team’s law enforcement and site exploitation backgrounds. The lane evaluated their ability to quickly collect evidence during a lull in an intense firefight. That evidence was used to ensure a detainee remains in custody and can be effectively processed through the host nation’s legal system,” said 1st Sgt. Joseph Willis, NCOIC.

The day’s events ended with tests on warrior tasks and battle drills as Soldiers marched from station to station embarking on numerous missions, to include weapons identification, first aid and medical evacuations.

Day 3 of competition brought weary Soldiers to Davidson Fitness Center where Soldiers displayed their fighting skills in combatives matches. Upon completion, Soldiers visited various ranges at locations across the installation to test their marksmanship abilities in both daylight and limited visibility, utilizing a wide-range of weapons while on the move and in stationary positions.

Day 4 was the long-awaited final day of competition. It began with a written exam and ended with a 15-mile endurance march, where Soldiers rucked with full gear, pain, sweat and anxiety, hoping for the sight of the anticipated finish line.

“We didn’t know how long we were marching when we started. It’s a scary situation, said Cpl. Christopher Vazquez, of Team 20 from Fort Myers, Fl., who finished first with his teammates in the endurance march. “But it was so relieving to finally get all the weight off when we finished. Not only physically, but mentally a huge weight lifted,” he said.

As teams crossed the finish line, it became evident that digging deep was the key to success, and that true grit wasn’t an option, it was essential. And while Vazquez and his team didn’t make it to the winner’s circle, they took pride in having successfully completed the competition.

“It hurt … but it was all mind over matter,” he said.

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