FORT CARSON, Colo. (4/7/13) – Sixteen elite noncommissioned officers and Soldiers competed for the title of Best Warrior over the course of three days at the Region VII Army National Guard Best Warrior Competition April 4-7 at Fort Carson, Colo.
The event was hosted, planned and implemented by the Colorado Army National Guard.
“They gathered a lot of subject matter experts from across the state to make sure everything went off without a hitch,” said COARNG Master Sgt. David Garduque of the 117th Space Battalion. “Everybody was fully engaged and did a very good job.”
This regional event included the best noncommissioned officers and Soldiers from Guam, Hawaii, California, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Arizona and Nevada.
“Working with others states has been outstanding,” said COARNG Sgt. Maj. Chelsea Marx of the 193rd Military Police Battalion. “What’s been very effective with that is being able to now have contacts with other states in the region, and having those contacts will allow the various states to excel.”
Soldiers from each state seemed motivated for the competition.
“I see a lot of people here with a lot of potential, and they’re giving it their all,” said Nevada Army National Guard Cpl. Angel Chavez of the 485th Military Police Company.
As most competitors came from elevations lower than Colorado, their performance was affected slightly.
“It’s really hard to breath up here, I’m struggling,” said Hawaii Army National Guard Spc. Alex Kahihikolo of the 29th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.
Kahihikolo’s fellow HIARNG competitor, Sgt. McFitzgerald Alcantara of Company A, 300th Brigade Support Battalion, said he loves the Colorado air.
“I love the weather, atmosphere, elevation…it’s rockin’,” he said.
The competition tests endurance, mental toughness and resolve. The events were designed to push the competitor to their limits.
“The idea was to test the Soldiers mentally, physically and emotionally to see if they had the resilience to make it through the events,” said Marx.
Marx said the event was held in honor of the fallen Soldiers from the eight states -- not just the fallen from the Global War on Terror, but specifically the fallen from the states in Region VII that had competed in this competition in the past.
"It’s important because the Soldiers and NCOs who competed here were doing it for those fallen warriors within their states, and also to carry on the memory of them the families that made the ultimate sacrifice," said Marx. "The Soldiers and NCOs in the region know why they’re here and why we do these things. The competitors knew the fallen from their states. They’re not just names. Keeping their memory alive is huge. It means everything to every one of us to be able to honor our brothers and sisters.”
Soldiers spent varying amounts of time preparing for the event. Arizona Army National Guard Spc. Michael Childress of Headquarters, Headquarters Company 1st Battalion, 158th Infantry Regiment, said he’s been training for nearly six months.
“My Honor Guard team leaders back in Arizona were all infantry NCOs and they’ve been training me up,” he said. “My sponsor is with the Mobilization Training Brigade and he’s been training through a lot of the tasks in the mean time.”
Soldiers at the competition say they gained intrinsic value from training for and competing in Best Warrior.
“I wanted to see how far I could push myself,” Alcantara said. “I wanted to gain experiences and bring them back to my unit and the things I learned here at the Best Warrior Competition.”
An interesting aspect of the competition is that each competing Soldier had a sponsor to aid them throughout the events.
“I try to be an inspiration for every other Soldier, and sponsoring one of our great female Soldiers in the Guam National Guard is a great opportunity for me,” said Guam Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Roman Ayuyu, who sponsored GUARNG Spc. April Schacher.
“I think it breeds a certain sense of competitiveness and it kind of increases the level of professionalism, and what it is to be a Soldier,” said Garduque. “When these sponsors lead their Soldiers through the process, I’m always telling them that they should be thinking two and three events ahead so their Soldier has everything they need to compete at a high level. Basic troop leading procedures, doing all those things that it means to have this one Soldier competing at this level, really brings out the best in the NCOs and in the competitors. I think the competition was a huge success.”
Nevada Army National Guard Spc. Nathaniel Hill and Utah Army National Guard Sgt. Conlee Luke took first place in their respective categories.
The winners of this event will go on to compete at the Army National Guard Best Warrior Competition. Winners at that level will then on to the Army Best Warrior Competition.
“A competition like this is very important not only for the NCOs and Soldiers who competed in it, but for the NCOs and Soldiers in the states that they’re going back to,” said Marx. “This competition makes the Soldier work hard, think hard and understand that they can exceed, excel and perform their mission whether they’re tired, hungry beat down and mentally exhausted. … What it really brings to the Soldiers in the other states is the ability to provide realistic training that will advance the knowledge and leaders ships skills of the Soldiers.”