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October 19, 2018

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Anatomy of the Army’s Best Warrior

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Eric Engman / News-Miner

Sgt. Adam Christensen at Fort Wainwright near Fairbanks, Alaska, on Friday, June 20, 2014.

The file on Sgt. Adam Christensen

DOB: June 23, 1984

Hometown: Logan, Utah

Stationed: 472nd Military Police Company, Fort Wainwright, Alaska

Las Vegas connection: Moved here in 2008 and worked as a plumber while his wife studied at UNLV.

Interests: Board games, hiking, camping.

Career goals: Go to Special Forces Selection and be chosen to attend the Special Forces Qualification Course.

Awards: Army Service Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, two Army Achievement Medals and two Army Commendation Medals.

Adam Christensen barely made it through the first round, saved by his high scores on physical tasks but practically buried by a low grade on the oral exam.

Nevertheless, the Las Vegas resident made it through to the regional round of the Army’s Best Warrior competition in Hawaii and now knew his weaknesses. He went on to beat the competition in the Pacific Region and moved on to the national championship at Fort Lee, Va.

“Basically, they make you do everything that you would be expected to do in the Army, over one weekend,” Christensen said.

After a grueling three-day showdown with 23 other regional winners, Christensen came out on top.

The whole time a supervisor was tracking him and taking notes, timing him on tasks such as putting on chemical weapons gear (time limit: 9 minutes).

To mimic battle scenes, the army brought in special effects experts to launch fireworks, simulate explosions and create a feeling of general chaos.

Christensen is a military police officer, but anyone in the Army can compete, from cooks and supply clerks to soldiers.

He said the experience, which included long days of preparation with help from a sergeant in Alaska, made him a better soldier.

“I think the most important quality for a soldier is resilience,” Christensen said. “There’s no way anyone will be the best at everything, and it’s not a good idea to try and be best. A good idea is to do the best that you can do and improve yourself as best you can. You just need to be constantly striving to do your best and be better.”

• Head — The hardest part of the three-day test for Christensen was the board review. A panel of master sergeants grilled competitors on Army manuals while they sweated through their dress uniforms. Christensen also had to take a written test on Army facts and procedures and complete an essay. The topic: Sexual harassment, why the issue is important and what the Army can do to combat it.

• Eyes — On Day 1, Christensen had to find a target range, then show a mastery of multiple firearms. He had to disassemble and reassemble a 9mm handgun and an M4 rifle, then fire and strike targets using both hands. He said the land navigation portion came easy to him, having been a Boy Scout.

• Mouth — On Day 2, Christensen had to control a squad, making sure the soldiers were in formation and leading them in drills. During one exercise, he had to get his men and their supplies over obstacles using only ropes and teamwork. In another, he had to work with villagers to secure an area after an undetonated “bomb” was found.

• Back — Christensen wore 35 pounds of clothing and gear, including a helmet, body armor and an Airsoft M-16. He also carried a 25-pound backpack with everything he needed for the competition, including chemical protective gear, food rations and water.

• Arms — Christensen had to change a Humvee tire that weighed more than 100 pounds. A soldier helped competitors lift the tire off the back of a truck, but once it was on the ground, competitors had to do all of the work themselves.

• Legs — Christensen estimates he hiked 15 miles on the first day alone, running for hours while following instructions to get from one exercise to the next. He said he got his mile time down to 5 minutes, 30 seconds.

• Feet — Christensen had to evade enemy fire to get to an overturned Humvee at a battle scene where a “wounded” soldier was waiting. Christensen then had to perform first aid on the man, get him on a stretcher and haul him to safety.

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