It’s a common boast heard around Fort Hood: “My team is the best at shooting. My team is the best at hand-to-hand combat.”

For the first time in nearly a decade, soldiers in 1st Cavalry Division’s 2nd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, had an opportunity to demonstrate the truth of such claims during the unit’s “Best by Test” competition.

“We decided to create a test to see who was telling the truth,” said Lt. Col. Ryan McCormack, battalion commander. “We were at the point in our training progression that really allowed us to build on previous months, and this is a stepping stone for where we’ll begin to train in September.”

Beginning Aug. 15, about 600 soldiers divided into more than 20 teams to undergo rigorous activities that included physical training, land navigation, a 12-mile march, live-fire exercises and marksmanship.

It was a time of nostalgia for McCormack, who recalled participating in such events during his early days at Fort Hood more than a decade ago.

“Competition breeds excellence,” he said. “You get a lot of trash talking, but we come together and we compete. It builds camaraderie.”

The competition wrapped up Aug. 20 with a combatives training session. Participants honed their defense and fighting techniques in front of their peers, making for a raucous atmosphere in the Combatives Training Facility as soldiers cheered on their unit members.

“For many of the soldiers, this is their first time doing combat in a controlled manner,” said Sgt. Maj. Edgar Fuentes.

“It’s OK to know your (occupational specialty), but you need to know more than that. And there’s nothing like fighting for your unit.”

Pfc. Orion Bailey agreed, calling the competition “exhilarating.”

“We’ve been up all night firing live rounds, so we’re all pretty tired,” Bailey said. “(The competition) has been very strenuous, but it’s good training overall. We’re pretty confident.”

Conta​ct Erinn Callahan at or 254-501-7464.

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