Story by Alexandra Shea on 08/09/2019Staff Sgt. Dakota Bowen was named TRADOC's Non-commissioned Officer of the Year during a weeklong competition held in Fort Rucker, Alabama. Through hard work and dedication, Bowen was able to take the title but attributes his success to his competitive nature and "my girls."
"My wife has been super supportive," Bowen said. "She has been my guinea pig for anything I have had to learn or memorize."
Bowen is a drill sergeant with 3rd Battalion, 39th Infantry Regiment at Fort Jackson. The life of a drill sergeant can be demanding with long hours and few days off during a 10-week training cycle. Bowen has found a balance between work and Family by including his wife and daughters into his training to compete in the Best Warrior Competition series.
Bowen started his journey by competing in the Fort Jackson NCO of the Year competition where he won and was advanced to the TRADOC level. Once he arrived to Fort Rucker, he spent a whirl wind week of competing against roughly 13 other NCOs. The week started with day and night land navigation, an unknown distance run, grenade range, 100 question written test and a formal board.
He talked about how he took his time to complete all of his tasks on day one even if it meant sacrificing precious points to ensure he met the testing standards and get a feel for the competition.
"It's a marathon, not a sprint," Bowen said.
By day three, his strategy started paying off as he began to outperform his competitors. Bowen was one of two NCOs to complete the rigorous ruck march in the allotted time, earning him valuable points that would help him claim the Best Warrior title.
"We were pretty wore out," Bowen said. "I know a lot of people were struggling. Two miles in I thought I was going to be a heat casualty."
The competitors battled heat and humidity during the ruck march but were offered enhanced water nicknamed "drip drop" and arm immersion
tanks about every mile of the march to help ensure the competitors stayed hydrated. Bowen explained that while the start of the ruck was rough going for him, his determination to finish and the hydration stations kept him going. He said by mile six, he was feeling good and finished strong.
Due to the location of the competition, unique competition events were held for the competitors. Fort Rucker is home to the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence so during the competition, aviation assets flew the competitors from Fort Rucker to Fort Benning, Georgia, for additional events such as a swim through Victory Pond, obstacle course, M4 qualification range and a tomahawk throwing event.
The last day of the competition, Bowen and his fellow competitors completed the new Army Combat Fitness Test, where he scored 581 points and completed his two-mile run in 11 minutes and 26 seconds, and a combatives tournament against each other.
"My last two days were my strongest," Bowen said. "The first few days were really up in the air about who was going to be the winner."
The competitors filed into the hall where the award ceremony was held and waited to find out who would take the top honors. He was awarded with an engraved trophy, tomahawk and the Army Commendation Medal.
After returning home, Bowen took a week of leave to recover and spend time with his family.
"I was ready to get home and see my girls," Bowen said.
It is common for command team members to attend competitions such as Best Warrior to follow and support their candidates. For Bowen, his command team went a step above and live streamed the events he competed in so his wife and two daughters could view it.
Bowen explained that the live streaming with his Family watching helped him push a little harder throughout the competition.
"Leaving for a week at a time for all of this is tough on me," Bowen said. "If I have to be away from them, I do my best. I never want to disappoint them and I want to be a good role model for them."
Now that the TRADOC Best Warrior Competition is complete Bowen will advance to the final challenge to be the best in the Army. Later this year, he will compete against the best-of-the-best NCOs from across all commands within the Army.
Bowen says he is already training physically and mentally for the final competition and is again studying with his wife Brittany's support. While he won't speculate on his chance at winning the competition, he is confident he will continue to give all he can throughout the competition.
"I've never thought of myself as better than anyone else," Bowen said. "I'm ready and excited to see what they are going to throw at us."
While Bowen remains humble about competing in the Department of the Army-level competition, his chain of command at Fort Jackson is confidant in his abilities to demonstrate what being a strong NCO and leader is all about in the upcoming competition.
"Staff Sgt. Bowen represents the best of what we should expect from the NCO Corp. He has the character, competence and commitment to win in all situations," said 3rd Battalion, 39th Infantry Regiment Command Sgt. Maj. Corey Oliver. "I'm proud to know that the Army's future is in the hands of NCOs like Staff Sgt. Bowen."