Going above and beyond is what a Soldier is known for and why it is such a respected profession in the US.
For Chaplain (Capt.) Bryan Kimble, the desire to serve in the military came from his father who once served on active duty in the same battalion Kimble is assigned to today: The 1st Battalion, 37th Armored Regiment, part of the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division.
“I grew up with such a strong love and appreciation for those who serve our Republic, and later I found out that many in my family served- in fact over a dozen in our nation’s War for Independence,” said Kimble. “As I continued to pray for those serving, I felt God working on my heart to serve the nation and our Soldiers, and I rose my right hand to swear in.”
This “Bandit Shepard”, however, is not your ordinary chaplain. His passion for weightlifting allowed him to represent the “Bandits” during the 2019 Natural Athlete Strength Association Texas Championship in the MPF (Military, Police, and Firefighter) and Masters-Pure division of 198 lbs. weight class for both Power Sports and Unequipped Push Pull.
“Power Sports is strict curls, bench press and deadlift,” explained Kimble. “It is raw- no support equipment but a 4-inch belt. Unequipped Push Pull is a bench press and deadlift- also raw.”
Both divisions require drug free lifters; MPF with three years of being drug free and Masters-Pure, a lifetime.
Overall, he placed first in each of these divisions for his weight class: first overall (based off coefficient) for Power Sports, and forth for the Push-Pull event.
In this process, he also set six Texas state records – four in Power Sports and two in Push/Pull. He is now on the National Top 250 Rankings at 22nd for Power Sports and 34th for the Push/Pull event.
To complete such a feat comes from a strong support system that he has found in his faith and his “best-half,” Jessica.
“They give me strength and motivation to get up to hit the gym at 5 a.m. prior to unit physical training.”
Kimble had to go through many obstacles to get to the level of competitor he is today. He had to undergo surgery for severe migraines in 2017, which led to an extreme recovery phase.
“The medical professionals would not allow me to complete more than four reps, let alone compete,” he said. “I had to gradually take time after the surgery to recover and start working towards completing a one-mile run again.”
He knew, due to his faith, that he would recover and be able to pursue his passion through hard work and continued dedication.
He urges Soldiers to also go after their passion and offers his story to help them see the positive in down times.
“Make sure you are doing it all for the right reasons,” warns Kimble. “Learn proper techniques prior to pushing yourself and stay away from short cuts such as performance enhancing drugs. Overall, never accept defeat. If you fail, then learn and adapt but never accept it as a defeat.”
Each year, retired Chief Warrant Officer 3 Tommy Mills of El Paso asks himself how the organizers of the competition in his son’s name could possibly do better, but each year, they find a way.
This year was no exception for the Staff Sgt. Joshua M. Mills Commando Competition, with the largest number of teams ever participating in the fifth annual competition that honors our nation’s fallen.
The competition is named after an El Paso native and Green Beret who was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group, when he died Sept. 16, 2009, after his vehicle struck an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan.
“To say that we are honored and we appreciate what you do for our fallen, with our son’s name on it, I can’t thank you any more,” said Tommy Mills, as he spoke at the competition’s closing ceremony at 1st Lt. Paul A. Noel Parade Field at Fort Bliss Saturday.
Other family members in attendance included Joshua’s mother Celeste and his son Malaki, 9, who attended for the first time this year and not only got to hand out coins to the winners, but also visited with participants throughout the competition and received a tour at the 1st Armored Division Combat Aviation Brigade.
Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Dean, a Special Operations recruiter and organizer of the competition, said 12 teams of four competed this year, with new categories that included law enforcement and Reserve Officers’ Training Corps cadets.
The competition, which took place Friday (September 28) and Saturday (September 29) at Fort Bliss, included a set of difficult exercises that had to be completed in 80 minutes; a five-mile run that had to be completed in fewer than 40 minutes; a stress shoot with five events at McGregor Range, N.M.; all the obstacles at the Air Assault Obstacle Course (timed); and a six-mile ruck march with a minimum 40-pound ruck that included carrying water cans, ammo crates and litters, Dean said.
It ended with four Soldiers assigned to the Black Daggers Parachute Demonstration Team parachuting onto the parade field before the closing ceremony.
This year’s winners included Joint Task Force-North, the top Fort Bliss team; 19th Special Forces Group, the number one Special Forces unit; Team One from the University of Texas at El Paso ROTC, the best ROTC team; and the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office SWAT team, the best law enforcement team.
In addition, Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Ricardo Luna, assigned to JTF-N, won the upper body round robin individual competition for the second year in a row. Derek Nepo, assigned to the 19th SF Group, was the top shot in the stress shoot.
Maj. Adam Antonini, a member of the JTF-N team, said the turnout from all the Fort Bliss units was impressive.
“Competing in the JMCC was a great opportunity to spend two days honoring an NCO who gave his life in defense of the American people,” Antonini said. “Seeing the Mills family in attendance at every event really motivated us to do our best.”
It’s important that the Fort Bliss community continues to support the event year after year, Antonini said.
Several 1st Armored Division units also participated, and Sgt. Armand Spencer, assigned to 1st Battalion, 37th Armored Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st AD, said the competition made him a better Soldier.
“I just love competitions and showing what you’re made of,” Spencer said. “It gives you that gut check and it’s a good way to represent our battalion.”