WASHINGTON, DC — The results are in, and a team of Rangers from 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, are the Army’s inaugural Best Squad. The five soldiers were recognized in a luncheon on Monday, Oct. 10, in Washington, DC.
Led by squad leader Staff Sgt. Devon Simpson and team leader Sgt. Jonathan Warren, the winning Rangers, stationed at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, Georgia, took home the “Best Squad” trophy for Army Special Operations Command, or USASOC.
The junior soldiers on the squad were Spc. Nathan Wallen, Spc. Jake Reichman, and Spc. Coy Anderson.
“I am particularly proud of the squad I’m in,” Simpson said. “They put in a lot of work and supported each other through a lot more than this, and it only added to our success here. I’m grateful for the relationships we have.”
Unlike many of the other 11 squads they competed against, which pulled from different units throughout their commands, the Rangers on the winning squad work together every day in Georgia.
“It’s a tenfold advantage,” Simpson said. “A lot of our communication just came by body posture.”
The five Rangers knew when to step in and take over a task for a struggling teammate, Simpson said, just by a slumped shoulder or change in gait. One would step up with a word of encouragement, Simpson said, such as, “Hey, bro, I got this. Get some water.”
Starting on Sept. 29, the dozen squads competed in a weeklong, branchwide Best Squad competition, the first of its kind, at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Events ranged from a physical fitness test, a 12-mile foot march, and shooting heavy weapons, like recoilless rifles, to taking an exam that tested basic Army knowledge and writing an essay.
“We were sweating the essays,” Simpson said.
After competing in more than a dozen events at Bragg, four squads moved on to the final stage of competition in Washington, DC: a board interview with top Army leaders. Along with the Rangers, the final four teams were a squad from the 101st Airborne representing Army Forces Command and teams from both the Army National Guard and Army Reserve.
The board interview started with a uniform inspection, followed by 30 minutes of questions with a panel of about seven sergeants major from across the Army, including Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael Grinston.
Wallen told Coffee or Die Magazine that he’d almost gone into the board with his belt on incorrectly, but his squad and team leader caught the error.
The team of five Rangers was announced as the winning squad at the Association of the US Army’s annual meeting in Washington, DC, where Lt. Gen. Jonathan Braga, the commander of USASOC, talked about the winning squad.
“This is what’s good about America. This is what’s good about the Army. This is what’s good about soldiering,” Braga said.
The best noncommissioned officer, or NCO, and best soldier of the year were also announced at the meeting, as well as the recipient of the cadre leadership award. Sgt. Garrett Paulson, representing Army Medical Command, took home the title of best NCO, and Spc. Samuel Alvarez, from Army Forces Command, was named best soldier.
During the competition, Alvarez clocked in with the best 12-mile foot march time at 2 hours and 14 minutes.
Sgt. Emily Lamontagne, a human intelligence collector with Army Cyber Command, took home the Cadre Leadership Award.
Editor’s note: A previous version of this story incorrectly listed the order in which the soldiers were standing in a picture.