Sun, Sand and Sweat: RHC-Pacific Picks its Best Leaders

LAST UPDATED: June 13, 2022
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Soldier training in wooded area
​​​Author: Christopher Larsen
TRIPLER ARMY MEDICAL CENTER, Honolulu – Six Soldiers from teams taking part in Regional Health Command-Pacific’s Best Leader Competition here will represent the command at the U.S. Army Medical Command BLC at Fort Benning, Georgia, later this year. 

The lucky six were named during the BLC award ceremony May 11, after three days of grueling competition.

Dr. (Capt.) Ashlynn Turner, Public Health Command-Pacific; Staff Sgt. Hali Allen, PHC-P; Sgt. Michael Charbonneau, U.S. Army Medical Department-Korea, Camp Humphreys, South Korea; Spc. Logan Hadley, Tripler Army Medical Center; Spc. Polina Gashnikova, TAMC; and Pfc. Jacob Griffiths, MEDDSC-Korea, make up the team. 

They were chosen due to their overall performance and total points scored during the competition. 

"It is an honor to be one of the six Soldiers chosen to compete for RHC-P in the MEDCOM BLC," said Turner, 29, a veterinarian originally from Cordova, South Carolina. The four-year Army veteran is assigned to Public Health Activity-Japan's branch at Yokosuka Naval Base. 

"We have worked very hard to get here, so I think we are all excited to use our skills and do our best in the event," Turner added. 

The BLC pitted more than 40 officers, NCOs, and enlisted Soldiers from RHC-Pacific units against each other in a contest that required strength, medical and military skills, physical fitness, and tactical proficiency.

The events consisted of the Army Combat Fitness Test, water survival, day and night land navigation, a five-mile road march in full combat gear, Army Warrior Tasks, and oral and written testing. 

There was also a mystery event: treating a simulated casualty in jungle conditions and transporting the ‘patient’ downstream on a raft made from competitors’ rucksacks. 

In addition to the Soldiers making up the Region team, first-place and runner-up teams were also chosen.

The first-place team came from U.S. Army Medical Department-Alaska, a feat made more impressive due to its performance in the tropic heat of Hawaii. 

The MEDDAC-Alaska team consisted of Capt. Timothy Jurkowski, Staff Sgt. Michael Fowlkes, Sgt. Shu Luo, Spc. Candace Neal, Spc. Gustavo Avalos, and Spc. Tyler Wyrosdick. 

The runner-up team, from U.S. Army Medical Department-Korea, consisted of 1st Lt. Samuel Joo, Sgt. Michael Charbonneau, Spc. Gavin Byoric, Pfc. Samuel Jang, and Pfc. Jacob Griffiths. 

Joo, 27, an Army nurse from Fort Worth, Texas, also competed in the 2021 BLC. He said this year's event was "more difficult, but exciting." 

Joo had some advice for those thinking about competing in other events. 

"My main advice would be to develop rapport with your team members early and maintain physical fitness," he said. "Our team was assembled early and had the chance to complete challenges as a team, [which] allowed us to bond and work better together." 

Some top finishers said they’d trained long and hard for the competition, but were also able to play to their personal strengths formed from past experience. 

Spc. Logan Hadley, a combat medic assigned to Tripler Army Medical Center and an Ormond Beach, Florida, native, said he found the water survival event the easiest to tackle. 

“I've grown up in the water my entire life,” Hadley, 20, said, adding that he’d previously been an ocean rescue life guard in Daytona Beach. 

Hadley said he combined normal daily activity with intensive preparation to get ready for the BLC. 

“I followed my normal physical training routine while also attending train-up classes, which included Army Warrior Tasks, water survival, and board practice,” he said.

Another member of the winning team said she started training for the event in February.​

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