Guts and brains also make ‘expert soldiers’ at US Army competition in Japan

Capt. Quinetta Forby, 30, receives the Expert Soldier Badge from Commander U.S. Army Japan Maj. Gen. Joel B. Vowell at Sagami General Depot, Japan, Friday, April 22, 2022. ( Kelly Agee/Stars and Stripes)

SAGAMI GENERAL DEPOT, Japan — Capt. Quinetta Forby was beaming as U.S. Army Japan commander Maj. Gen. Joel B. Vowell pinned the Expert Soldier insignia to his tunic on Friday.

Forby, 30, from Shady Dale, Georgia, was one of 23 soldiers and the only woman to earn the insignia and title by demonstrating knowledge of all things military, weaponry to land navigation to combat medical procedures.

The four-day competition, the first-ever for the U.S. military in Japan, kicked off Monday with a field of 121 participants from Japan and Guam. The competing troops spent a week from April 18 training for the tests they would face.

“I wanted to get out here and push my soldiers as much as they push me,” Forby, commander of Echo Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Air Defense Artillery Regiment, told Stars and Stripes on Friday. “As a leader, it’s good for me to see what they actually have to do.”

She was also one of five soldiers to achieve a perfect score at every station on the course, a feat that earned her a second accolade, a “Perfect Advantage”. These five soldiers also received an Army Medal of Honor.

Pfc.  Felix Rosario Acosta, 21, a human resources specialist with the 38th Air Defense Artillery Brigade at Sagami General Depot, Japan, was among those awarded an Expert Soldier Badge, Friday, April 22, 2022 .

Pfc. Felix Rosario Acosta, 21, a human resources specialist with the 38th Air Defense Artillery Brigade at Sagami General Depot, Japan, was among those awarded an Expert Soldier Badge, Friday, April 22, 2022 (Juan King/Stars and Stripes)

The Army approved the Expert Soldier Badge in 2019 as a way for soldiers in occupations other than infantry and medical care to prove their combat readiness, Vowell said at the awards ceremony.

The competition began at Camp Zama, the U.S. Army headquarters in Japan, and included events at Sagami General Depot and Combined Arms Training Center Camp Fuji.

Wheeled vehicle mechanics, human resources specialists and musicians, among others, participated in the contest. Throughout the week, they faced 30 “warrior tasks” in physical fitness, weapons proficiency, land navigation, patrol and medical understanding.

Pfc. Felix Rosario Acosta, 21, a human resources specialist with the 38th Air Defense Artillery Brigade at Sagami General Depot, also earned the Expert Soldier badge. He said the competition was the first time he had touched any of the weapons or performed any of the rescue techniques.

“Nobody sees a human resources person trying to get that badge, because we’re paper workers,” Rosario Acosta, a native of Lares Morovis, Puerto Rico, told Stars and Stripes on Thursday. “I want to represent human resources.

His father, Guillermo Roserio Nieves, retired after 20 years as an army human resources specialist. “I want to make my dad proud,” Rosario Acosta said.

The soldiers fought each other rather than each other. For each task, each soldier must reach or exceed the score set by the army to advance to the next round.

The Army approved the Expert Soldier Badge in 2019 as a way for soldiers in occupations other than infantry and medical to prove their combat readiness.

The Army approved the Expert Soldier Badge in 2019 as a way for soldiers in occupations other than infantry and medical care to prove their combat readiness. (Juan King/Stars and Stripes)

Thursday, a day devoted to testing the medical skills of the soldiers, there were only 25 competitors left. The medical competition consisted of 10 tasks, such as requesting medical evacuation, providing care under fire and performing first aid for an open head injury in a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear environment.

The competition is not just about physical strength, but also about mental acuity, said Rosario Acosta. He was most concerned about the test on treating a victim for a spinal injury on Thursday.

“There are a lot of steps to do it and if you skip a step it will be impossible,” he said. “Yesterday I had to memorize 11 lines of footsteps. It’s all about memorization. »

Forby said she competed as a soldier, not just as a woman.

“I can push as hard as you can,” she said. “I can push as far, if not as far as the males. Any female soldier who looks at it like “I can’t do it”, I’m the best example of “Yes you can”. You just have to get to work.

Next year, members of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force will participate in the competition, U.S. Army Japan Command Sgt. Maj. Jerry Dodson Jr. said Thursday at Sagami General Depot.

“Any soldier can do it, but soldiers who are detail oriented, resilient and physically fit will always be more successful,” he said.

The first-ever U.S. Army Expert Soldier Badge competition in Japan kicked off on Monday, April 18, 2022, with a field of 121 people from Japan and Guam.  Thursday, there were only 25 competitors left.

The first-ever U.S. Army Expert Soldier Badge competition in Japan kicked off on Monday, April 18, 2022, with a field of 121 people from Japan and Guam. Thursday, there were only 25 competitors left. (Juan King/Stars and Stripes)