SPRINGFIELD – Soldiers assigned to the Illinois Army National Guard's Troop B, 2nd Squadron, 106th Cavalry Regiment placed third in the 2017 Gainey Cup Best Scout Squad Competition.
The biannual competition, named for retired Command Sgt. Maj. William "Joe" Gainey, tests cavalry squads from throughout the Army, as well as NATO allies, in a variety of reconnaissance skills. This year marked the first time a team from the Illinois Army National Guard competed.
Lt. Col. Seth Hible of Winfield, Illinois, the commander of 2nd Squadron, 106th Cavalry Regiment, was impressed by his Soldiers' performance.
"I was pleasantly surprised," said Hible. "I knew they would do well."
Hible said that the team's performance shows how strong the skills are across all components of the Army.
1st Lt. Bobby Springer of Chicago, a platoon leader with Troop B and the troop's Gainey Cup team leader, said the experience was amazing.
"It was a tremendous privilege and responsibility," said Springer.
Springer echoed Hible's belief that the team's accomplishment showed how the National Guard has transitioned to an operational force. Springer said teams from other National Guard units were just as prepared as Troop B.
Sgt. Evan Westart from Oswego, Illinois, a team leader with Troop B, said he was honored to be a part of the Gainey Cup team.
"There were a lot of people that put a lot of time and effort into getting us to where we need to be," said Westart. "It was very honoring to move forward and make them proud."
Westart said Soldiers in Troop B started building the team in late 2016.
"We would do monthly trainings intermittent with drills," said Westart. "We would test people to see who would retain the information and who was working to be on the team."
The team set its final roster in December 2016. In January the team participated in a selection process that determined which teams from around the country would represent the National Guard in the competition.
Westart said after having to replace two team members, they worked hard to bring their newest members up to speed.
Pfc. Michael Cates from Villa Park, Illinois, a scout with Troop B, was added to the team after the January qualification.
Cates said he had to work hard to make sure he caught up with his teammates.
Capt. Matthew Bruce of Chicago, the commander for Troop B, said the team brought a lot of new ideas back from the competition and were eager to share them with the troop.
"Their first weekend back, they had already started imparting their knowledge they gained during the train-up back to the unit," said Bruce. "It's a phenomenal resource to have them here."
Though the next competition won't be until 2019, the team is already preparing for another shot at 1st place.
"We were joking about it on our way home saying 'tryouts start tomorrow,'" said Springer. "With the success we had down there taking third, I think we have a good shot at winning it in 2019."
Cates said because of the team's success, he is adjusting plans of moving to Oklahoma in order to remain with the team for another chance to win the cup.
Bruce believes with Troop B's knowledge and experience, they could be equally successful in future competitions.
"We're looking forward to a repeat in 2019," said Bruce.