Fort Carson, Colorado –
Six Airmen and eight Soldiers of the Colorado National Guard competed in the 2019 Best Warrior Competition at Fort Carson, Colorado, April 11-14, 2019.
When the competition came to an end, the exhausted Soldiers and Airmen appeared to muster up the energy and motivation to see who among them would be named the best.
U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Christopher Bailey, a cargo Non-commissioned Officer in Charge, 140th Logistics Readiness Squadron, earned “Best NCO.” U.S. Army Spc. Jake Beehler, a UH-60 helicopter maintainer, Company D, 3rd Battalion, 140th Aviation Regiment, earned “Best Junior Enlisted Member.”
“Coming into it, I didn’t have knowledge of a lot of the stuff,” Bailey said. “I think my mental fortitude and the heart I had to push through is what kept me (going).”
The challenges were part of a promise that U.S. Army Command Sgt. Maj. Edward Macias, Colorado Army National Guard senior enlisted leader, made during his introductory briefing on the first night of the competition.
“You’re going to be challenged, physically and mentally,” Macias said. “I’ll ask you: Can you make yourself better, and then can you make your other warriors that are in your section better?”
The events pushed the Soldiers and Airmen to their limits and beyond, testing them with little to no rest in-between. The events challenged the competitors on a large number of skills including land navigation, weapons assembly in full mission-oriented protective posture gear, performing first aid on a simulated casualty, and other warrior tasks.
Bailey said he enjoyed the entire competition, and for him, the land navigation test was both the best part and the most challenging part. The test challenged participants to find five points scattered in the vicinity of the nearby U.S. Air Force Academy. Night fell during the test, forcing them to find points in the dark.
Beehler said that his favorite event was also the land navigation test, even though he said that he had never done it before.
The tasks were not the only obstacles the competitors had to overcome: weather was also a factor. Most of the weekend was cloudy, cold and windy. Nighttime temperatures dropped below freezing, and daytime temperatures rose only into the 40s.
During the morning of April 13, the competitors conducted a series of warrior tasks and drills in short order. Snow fell, adding another unanticipated challenge. After assembling weapons in full MOPP gear, competitors donned a rucksack full of their equipment and conducted a road march through the now muddy ground of Fort Carson.
This marked the third year Airmen competed alongside Soldiers, emphasizing the joint operations often conducted by the two branches, especially in National Guard domestic operations. Macias encouraged the competitors to work with each other, and this was observed throughout the competition.
Soldiers cheered on Airmen and vice versa as they performed the challenges. At the very end of the competition, no service members were left behind. After many of the competitors were already finished with the ruck march, they turned around to cheer on their fellow Soldiers and Airmen.
Beehler will go on to compete in the Region 7 Best Warrior Competition held in Reno, Nevada, May 20-24. As the top Army NCO of the competition, U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Kelly McLachlan, human resources specialist, Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 5th Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group will join Beehler. There are no BWC competitions for Airmen beyond the state level.
Bailey, McLachlan and Beehler will also travel to National Guard State Partnership Program partner nation Slovenia in August to compete in a six-man super squad event. Fellow competitors joining them will include: U.S. Army Spc. Jason Higdon, multiple launch rocket system crewmember, Battery A, 3rd Battalion, 157th Field Artillery Regiment; U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Peter Nash, flight chief, 140th Security Forces Squadron; and, Airman 1st Class Corbin Andersen, a security forces member, 140th Security Forces Squadron, named Colorado’s best junior enlisted Airman of the 2019 BWC competition.