Story and Photos By Staff Sgt. Cashmere C. Jefferson, Public Affairs Office, 704th MI Brigade
Alight mist of rain, mud and slippery terrain set the stage for Soldiers from the 704th Military Intelligence Brigade, who competed in the first-ever Tough Squad competition on Sept. 13 at Gunpowder Military Reservation.
The competition focused on skills Soldiers learn during Sergeants Time Training, or STT, a period in which squad leaders get the opportunity to work on warrior skills that Soldiers need to accomplish their mission.
“We’re not in the good Soldiers business; we’re in the leader development business and we want you to have the skills to take the Soldiers entrusted to you into a complex world and bring them back safe,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Marc A. Gianotti, senior enlisted leader of 704th MI.
Six squads from units across the brigade came together to navigate through four checkpoints that would assess their knowledge, adaptability, attention to detail and their ability to work together as a cohesive team.
“Squad leaders and staff sergeants have to know how to navigate a squad, cover uneven terrain, react to contact, how to shoot, move and communicate, and this is the reality of the world we live in,” Gianotti said.
“So if you think that the rest of your MI career will be spent sitting in a cubicle, in an air-conditioned building, I got news for you. And anybody who’d got a patch on their right shoulder will tell you that’s not the case.”
Sgt. Alfredo A. Munoz-Lopez, a squad leader assigned to B Company, 741st MI Battalion, led his squad to victory during the competition. They were presented coins by Col. Rhett R. Cox, commander of 704th MI, and took home the trophy naming his squad the best in the brigade.
“I was so surprised that we won because I wasn’t sure how well we did compared to everyone else,” Munoz-Lopez said. “Some of the other teams had staff sergeants, experienced Soldiers with a lot of combat patches. Some had a lot of cool gear, and then there was us.”
Munoz-Lopez said he felt like the other squads were going to rip them apart. But he told his team they would do their best and have a good time.
He said his squad was all for it.
“A lot of the Soldiers on my team were my peers, but they let me lead and they didn’t let me down,” Munoz-Lopez said. “My two team leaders were extremely knowledgeable, and if they didn’t know something, they asked me.
“And that trait enabled us not to leave any gaps in our planning, so I give all the credit to my squad.”