In a satisfying turn of events for a man who says he thrives on competition, Staff Sgt. Eric White of the New Kensington-based 340th Engineer Company was one of 28 Army Reservists chosen from a group of 205,000 to compete in the Army Reserve portion of the multi-faceted Best Warrior contest.
A 1999 graduate of Baldwin High School, Staff Sgt. White, 29, enlisted in the Army Reserve shortly after 9/11, and served a tour in Iraq from December 2003 to March 2005.
"I've always been a patriotic person, and I knew [the Army Reserve] would give me help for college," he said.
Staff Sgt. White was a student at Robert Morris University, from which he earned a degree in business administration, when he joined the Army Reserve. He subsequently earned a master's degree from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. For the last three years, he's coached track and field at Duquesne University.
Best Warrior is a weeklong, physically and mentally gruelling test of soldier skills. Written and verbal examinations on various aspects of soldiering are interspersed with rifle marksmanship, land navigation, life-saving drills, physical fitness tests and timed road marches in full field gear.
Staff Sgt. White explained why he decided to try to become Best Warrior: "I love competition. Anything you can set in competition automatically brings out the best in people."
He thinks he did best in the written exam.
"The Army Study Guide is 320 pages," he said. "I memorized 80 to 90 percent of that."
The road march, on the other hand, "was the toughest event of my life," he said. "We were wearing about 100 pounds of gear."
Staff Sgt. White didn't win the competition, which ended Friday. Sgt. Francisco Gutierrez of the 35th Theater Support Command and Specialist David Obray of 88th Regional Readiness Command were selected as NCO of the year and Soldier of the Year, respectively. They'll compete this October at Fort Lee, Va., with soldiers from active Army commands for the overall title of Best Warrior.
Jack Kelly: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1476.