2017-07-14 / Front Page

BEST WARRIOR

Fort Gordon NCO advances in competition
BY LAURA LEVERING
Fort Gordon Public Affairs Office


Sgt. Kayanna Johnson, Family Life Center chaplain assistant, U.S. Army Garrison, prepares a “casualty” for removal from the woods during the patrol lanes portion of the 2017 Best Warrior Competition on June 12 in San Antonio, Texas. 
PHOTO BY TIM HIPPS / U.S. ARMY INSTALLATION MANAGEMENT COMMAND PUBLIC AFFAIRS Sgt. Kayanna Johnson, Family Life Center chaplain assistant, U.S. Army Garrison, prepares a “casualty” for removal from the woods during the patrol lanes portion of the 2017 Best Warrior Competition on June 12 in San Antonio, Texas. PHOTO BY TIM HIPPS / U.S. ARMY INSTALLATION MANAGEMENT COMMAND PUBLIC AFFAIRS Mother, wife, noncommissioned officer, student, mentor. Sgt. Kayanna Johnson, Family Life Center chaplain assistant, U.S. Army Garrison, wears many titles. Her latest one came as a surprise.

Johnson, the Fort Gordon NCO of the Year, placed runner up in U.S. Army Installation Management Command 2017 Noncommissioned Officer of the Year Best Warrior Competition.

The competition was held June 11-15 at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas.

Staff Sgt. Robert Collier, 35th Military Police Detachment, USAG, was instrumental in helping Johnson prepare for both competitions.

But unlike the one held at Fort Gordon, Johnson did not have Collier or anyone from Fort Gordon present to support her along the way. Nor did she know what to expect.


Sgt. Kayanna Johnson, Family Life Center chaplain assistant, U.S. Army Garrison, will represent Fort Gordon during a competition July 31 through Aug. 5 in San Antonio, Texas. If Johnson wins, she will advance to the Army Best Warrior Competition in Virginia to decide the U.S. Army’s Soldier of the Year and NCO of the Year. 
PHOTO BY LAURA LEVERING / FORT GORDON PUBLIC AFFAIRS OFFICE Sgt. Kayanna Johnson, Family Life Center chaplain assistant, U.S. Army Garrison, will represent Fort Gordon during a competition July 31 through Aug. 5 in San Antonio, Texas. If Johnson wins, she will advance to the Army Best Warrior Competition in Virginia to decide the U.S. Army’s Soldier of the Year and NCO of the Year. PHOTO BY LAURA LEVERING / FORT GORDON PUBLIC AFFAIRS OFFICE “It was totally different as far as environment, so it wasn’t comfortable at all because we didn’t know what was going to take place,” Johnson said.

Soldiers spent two nights in the field and competed in several warrior tasks.

The competition began with an afternoon Army Physical Fitness Test in about 95-degree heat. Soldiers wore Army Combat Uniforms in lieu of fitness uniforms and had to perform pull-ups in addition to the APFT fitness test. It was quite an introduction to the competition, Johnson said, as she witnessed others struggle during the run.

“I was just really hoping I’d make it through,” Johnson said.

She made it and was met by a challenge course immediately afterwards that comprised of 18 obstacles. One of the biggest surprises came during land navigation at nighttime, in which Johnson said she saw wild animals.

“During safety briefs, you’re always told to watch out for animals, and this is the first time I actually saw some,” Johnson said.

Day two consisted mostly of Situational Training Exercise lanes followed by daytime land navigation and an essay she had to turn in late that night. Johnson then returned to her tent to pack for a 12-mile ruck march that began at 3 a.m.

“It was horrible,” she said. “At Fort Gordon, I had time to actually sleep and rest in-between events. There (at Fort Sam Houston), there wasn’t a lot of time to do anything and I didn’t have adequate sleep.”

Qualifying on the weapons range didn’t offer any relief. Soldiers received a fraction of the time it would normally take to zero their M-16 rifle and 9-millimeter pistol then qualify.

The competition concluded with a Sergeants Major of the Army Board, and winners were announced during an awards ceremony.

“I really didn’t know what to expect, so I was definitely shocked,” Johnson said.

Collier was not surprised.

“As I trained more with Sgt. Johnson, her motivations and determination began to show … she strived for perfection,” Collier said. “If she failed, she did it again until she got it right.”

He said Johnson’s work ethic, motivation, family values and drive to succeed set her apart from her peers and make her a model NCO.

Command Sgt. Maj. Charlie Bryant Jr., Fort Gordon Garrison command sergeant major, said the competition was a huge accomplishment.

“Competing for this level of competition is no easy task, and I am extremely impressed with Sgt. Johnson because she only has about two and a half years in the Army,” Bryant said. “That speaks volumes to her knowledge and her potential to excel in the NCO ranks.”

Johnson said her daughters, ages 6 and 7, are her main source of inspiration.

“They both run track, so it can be hard for them sometimes when they’re out there and they don’t want to finish,” Johnson said. “I thought about my daughters and how I motivate them to never give up.”

They’re also the primary reasons she enlisted. Johnson wanted to ensure they have a strong female to look up to, and the Army enabled her to be that person.

Johnson will compete again in San Antonio July 31 to August 5 against NCOs from Army North, Army South, Army Central and Central Command. If she wins, she will advance to the Army Best Warrior Competition in Virginia and vie for another title: U.S. Army NCO of the Year.

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