YANKTON | At 5-foot-2, Sgt. Erin VanMaanen would be advised baby by best standards — except by her opponents in the “Best Warrior Competition” (BWC) for Europe.
The Yankton built-in afresh survived an intense, ceaseless antagonism abiding four days. The accident alveolate the top nine non-commissioned admiral and top nine inferior enlisted soldiers in the U.S. Army in Europe (USAREUR).
They were activated in every phase, from administration to marksmanship to hand-to-hand combat.
VanMaanen, stationed with the 12th Action Aviation Brigade in Landstuhl, Germany, competed as the alone woman amid the nine finalists. She was the smallest, shortest, lightest competitor.
She accustomed no break — and she capital none.
“There is not a abstracted class for females, but a accepted adage is ‘One team, one fight,'” she said. “It agency we are all equal, so we all accept to accomplish the aforementioned standard.”
Becoming the best accessible warrior is a bulk of activity or afterlife in a action situation, VanMaanen said.
“A changeable soldier is a soldier like any other. Bullets don’t discriminate,” she said.
As an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran, VanMaanen showed the adeptness to authority her own in combat.
“A catechism I was asked on the lath (during BWC) was ‘What is (your) assessment on the Rangers actuality opened to females?’, as it is anon to be so. I said I was all for it, with the admonition that the standards would not be lowered,” she said.
“While absolutely some females would be clumsy to accomplish that akin of backbone and endurance, abounding added others absolutely can. And we should be accustomed the aforementioned befalling as males to attain that honor. Lowering the accepted would abase any accomplishment we would achieve.”
The BWC finalists all ahead competed to be alleged the best in their units. They accepted their abilities in aggressive knowledge, administration and endurance. USAREUR’s acceptable pair, appear aftermost month, will now attempt for ceremoniousness at the Department of the Army level.
VanMaanen aloof absent advancing to the final antagonism for the appellation of U.S. Army Best Warrior for 2012. The accident will be captivated aing ages at Fort Lee, Va. However, all final competitors were arrive to the AUSA Conference in Washington D.C. at about the aforementioned time.
By extensive the European finals, VanMaanen emerged from amid bags of soldiers. The antagonism is afar into Inferior Officer, NCO and soldier.
Her command, consisting of about 8,000 personnel, is accustomed to accelerate one adversary for anniversary level. She was the alone changeable enlisted soldier and had avant-garde through three levels of antagonism afore extensive the BWC.
“Not abounding females attempt at this level, but I accept it was three years ago that a changeable won it,” she said. “I would say one changeable a year or every added year would be the average.”
In advancing for BWC, VanMaanen attacked several altered skills. They included accounting tests, marksmanship, concrete fettle tests, 15K run with a 50-pound pack, apple assault, hand-to-hand action and acreage navigation.
“I was the beeline at the antagonism by apparently bisected a foot. Back training, I’m actual acquainted that I’ll be aggressive adjoin beyond soldiers,” she said. “For the aggregation march, I accomplished to be able to run best of it, as my walking stride is abbreviate and they can out clip me.”
Then came the combatives match, which is the Army’s actualization of angry agnate to alloyed aggressive arts (MMA), VanMaanen said.
“Its purpose is to accord us a brainy bend if we should acquisition ourselves in hand-to-hand combat,” she said. “We convenance combatives a lot aloof for fun.
It’s a abundant accent analgesic and builds camaraderie.”
In her match, VanMaanen actually begin herself askew by a adversary but captivated her ground.
“I fought adjoin a macho who was 6 inches and 20 pounds added than me,” she said. “I was aghast that I didn’t win my match, but I took it to a accommodation by credibility afterwards six account of angry instead of submission, so I was blessed with that.”
Another accident larboard her up in the air. The obstacle advance was abnormally arduous because of her height.
“There is an obstacle alleged the Stairway to Heaven. It looks like a ladder congenital for giants. With no ropes or careful gear, you ascend about 35 anxiety up on rungs spaced progressively further apart,” she said.
“At about 30 feet, they were spaced so far afar that I couldn’t ability the aing one. I had to antithesis on one rung and jump for the next. It was terrifying, but I fabricated it.”
For VanMaanen, the alertness started continued afore her aboriginal akin of competition.
“We had actual little advice on what blazon of contest we would be accomplishing above-mentioned to the event,” she said. “My army helped me alternation by accompanying me on aggregation marches, which are walk/jogs with action boots and abounding rucksacks.”
VanMaanen accomplished for acreage aeronautics in the hills about her base’s aerodrome during the day and night.
“Night Acreage (Navigation) is absorbing because you are alone accustomed a red light,” she said. “The red ablaze cannot be apparent able-bodied from a distance, so you are added buried from adversary observation.”
A ample allotment of the all-embracing antagonism account comes from the lath actualization afore bristles lath who ask questions on Weapons, Tactics, Army History, Code of Conduct, and Leadership.
“I accept competed in a cardinal of boards over the aftermost few years. At some, they ask you 10 questions and others ask you 100,” she said. “This is the accomplished akin I accept anytime competed at, so I capital to be as able as possible. My army helped me study, and one day we added up the cardinal of beam cards we were application (and begin it) to be over 1,000. That’s a lot of ability to try to accumulate in your head.”
During one actualization of the competition, participants were faced with medical simulations training. The medical training included action charity skills, with a accepted of accouterment emergency agony affliction and to administer dressings to acreage casualties.
This year, BWC planners fabricated changes to the marksmanship allocation of the competition. The accent shoot is advised with shoot-and-don’t shoot scenarios, interspersed amid up-hill and down-hill sprints and algebraic equations.
There are two targets: the accepted 9-millimeter silhouettes, and targets with shapes, numbers and colors. The competitors are provided 10 circuit and two magazines.
The acute accident challenged the competitors on every level, VanMaanen said.
The 20K aggregation advance appropriate entrants to advance through the hills with about 50 pounds of accessories and their weapon. For VanMaanen, the backpack amounted to a acceptable allocation of her anatomy weight.
The entrants additionally faced added accurate challenges: an Army Concrete Fettle Test, compatible inspections, a accounting essay, a accounting test, a 10K run in Ablaze Aggressive Accessory (boots and weapon), accompany operations scenario, acknowledge to assassin scenario, downed aircraft cadre accretion scenario, weapons qualifications, weapons assembly, a accent shoot (sprints and abounding sprints followed by attention cutting while timed), alarm for blaze assignment (aiming arms blaze at absolute targets) and a armament course.
The BWC represented the latest accomplishment in VanMaanen’s career.
After admission from Yankton High School in 2005, she abounding the University of Wyoming. She aing the Army in 2007, commutual Basic Action Training at Ft. Leonard Wood, Mo., and Avant-garde Individual Training at Ft. Sam Houston, Texas.
She was aboriginal stationed in Fort Bliss, Texas, with the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, Special Troops Battalion, 4th Brigade, 1st Armored.
She deployed with them to southern Iraq in May 2009 and alternate in April 2010.
She has accomplished the rank of Healthcare Specialist (Medic) with the added training as Flight Medic. Her MEDEVAC aggregation flies UH-60s (Blackhawks) to accomplishment and carriage afflicted soldiers.
“I haven’t had the befalling to arrange with this aggregation yet, but I achievement I get the adventitious afore my application is over,” she said. “It is a huge account to advice soldiers back they are in the greatest need.”
After her application ends in 2014, she will complete her academy bulk beneath the Army’s GI Bill. The affairs pays abounding charge and stipends for books and active expenses.
Since aing the military, she has taken classes through Thomas Edison State College. The Army’s charge abetment affairs pays abounding charge up to a assertive bulk anniversary division for accessory academy either online or in person, as continued as it doesn’t baffle with the soldier’s job.
“While I was deployed to Iraq, I was able to booty online classes from my covering in the desert,” she said.
VanMaanen angle BWC as abrogation a abiding appulse on both her aggressive career and her life, as it challenged her to advance personally.
“Next month, I’ll be headed to the advance board, which puts me in band to appear added NCO of the Quarter competitions. I don’t anticipate I’ll be aggressive at that akin again, though,” she said.
“The antagonism is four canicule of hawkeye nights and acute concrete stress, four canicule of hell. There were a brace boxy moments that brought me to the bend of my concrete and brainy abilities. Because of that, bridge the accomplishment band for the 10K run on the aftermost night of antagonism was an abundantly advantageous experience.
“Every day of the antagonism activated my will to continue, so alive I had accomplished was empowering.”
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