Winners announced for SETAF-AF Best Warrior & Best Squad Competition

Approximately 40 Soldiers across U.S. Army Southern European Task Force, Africa, participated in the 2022 Best Warrior & Best Squad Competition held on Caserme Del Din, May 23-26. The winners were announced Wednesday, June 8 at an award ceremony.


“This competition allowed me to know my Soldiers better as we test our limits."
By Staff Sgt. Solomon Abanda U.S. Army Southern European Task Force, Africa Vicenza, Italy Jun 08, 2022
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VICENZA, Italy – Approximately 40 Soldiers across U.S. Army Southern European Task Force, Africa, participated in the 2022 Best Warrior & Best Squad Competition held on Caserma Del Din, May 23-26. The winners were announced Wednesday, June 8 at an award ceremony. 

The 2022 SEAF-AF Best Warriors are: 

  1. Best Warrior – Junior Enlisted: Spc. Alem Avdic, 54th Engineer Battalion 
  2. Best Warrior – NCO: Staff Sgt. Thomas Schneider, 173rd Airborne Brigade 
  3. Best Warrior – Officer: 1st Lt. Lawrence Mixon, 173rd Airborne Brigade 

Additionally, Sgt. Joshua Stolz, assigned to the 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade earned the title “Iron Soldier” for the best ACFT score; Sgt. Joseph Sanders, assigned to the 173rd Brigade Support Battalion, 173rd Airborne Brigade earned the title “Top Shot” with the best score on the stress shoot event; and Spc. Tyler Graessle, assigned to the 601st Quartermaster Company, 173rd Brigade Support Battalion, 173rd Airborne Brigade, earned the title “Golden Pen” for his essay. 

The best warrior competition is an annual event designed to identify and recognize Soldiers who demonstrate a commitment to the Army values, embody the Warrior Ethos, and represent the force of the future.

"It has been a great experience," said Mixon, "I love to do this kind of stuff, and we should do more events like this. Competing is a good way to encourage Soldiers to strive to be the best." 

Command Sgt. Maj. Sean M. Horval said new to this year's SETAF-AF Best Warrior Competition is the addition of the Best Squad Competition. This year’s competition had six five-man squads enter for the Best Squad title and an additional eight individual Soldiers also competed for the SETAF-AF Best Warrior titles. 

Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael Grinston announced the U.S. Army Best Squad Competition concept in February of this year, leaving less than three months for SETAF-AF units to identify and train squads for the event. Grinston said his goal is to assess squads not just on their technical and tactical proficiency, but also on their cohesiveness and ability to work together as a team. “For over two years I’ve talked about the importance of building a cohesive team that is highly trained, disciplined, and fit. Now it’s time to measure ourselves against that standard.” 

Horval said this year's competition was designed to physically, emotionally and cognitively challenge the competitors and to build cohesive teams that are trained, disciplined, and fit. It serves as the single event to recognize the best junior enlisted, noncommissioned officers (NCO), and officers that serve within the SETAF-AF umbrella of responsibility while also identifying the best squad. 

The Best Squad will continue on to compete at U.S. Army Europe and Africa (USAREUR-AF), from there, the winning squad will move on to the Department of the Army’s Best Squad Competition, which will be held in September. 

The Best Squad, representing SETAF-AF at the USAREUR-AF Best Squad Competition, is Squad #4, from the 601st Quartermaster Company. The team, led by SSG Thomas Schneider, includes Sgt. Cody Matonik, Spc. Sebastian Poynter, Spc. Tyler Graessle, and Spc. Matthew Orth. The Best Squad members will each receive an army achievement medal. 

"Getting Soldiers to work together as a team in friendly competition is an excellent way to boost morale and foster esprit de corps among troops,” said Staff Sgt. Winston Lawrence, an airborne paratrooper, who competed with Squad #5, representing the 173rd Brigade Support Battalion. “This competition allowed me to know my Soldiers better as we test our limits."

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