The Colorado Army National Guard hosted the 2021 Region VII Best Warrior Competition at the 168th Regional Training Institute, Fort Carson, Colorado, May 17-20, 2021. This regional event included the best NCO and Soldier from Arizona, California, Colorado, Guam, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah.
The BWC is a time for Soldiers and Noncommissioned officers to show they are the best of the best both physically and mentally.
“To prepare for this competition you need to make yourself a well-rounded soldier because this gives you a better chance at representing yourself, it’s a compilation of a whole bunch of areas,” said U.S. Army Spc. Adam Barlow, Fire Control Specialist, Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 65th Field Artillery Brigade, Utah National Guard.
The event began almost immediately following check-in with graded events including an oral board and an on-camera interview with public affairs posing as civilian news media. The board and interview tested the Soldier’s ability to answer questions that align with the military’s mission and values and to communicate with public affairs personnel.
U.S Army Sgt. Alexis Snyder, 111th Sustainment Brigade, New Mexico National Guard, was given about one weeks’ notice that she was coming to Colorado. Luckily, however, she is always physically prepared.
“Not going to lie, it was hard,” Snyder said. “Being a female, I had to hold myself to a higher standard, which I knew coming in. I went into it, did the best I could and that’s all I can ask for.”
Day two started with a fitness test consisting of eight events, primarily upper body, followed by a three-mile run. Colorado weather is unpredictable and no exception was made for this event as the overnight rain created muddy running conditions including a slick turf for shuttle sprints. The mud covered competitors were not deterred and they would finally receive reprieve from the weather during their two hour essay writing challenge.
The break was short however, and the competitors soon found themselves headed to the range for their stress shoot event.
“The competitors must bring weapons up from an unknown status and get rounds down range as fast as possible,” said U.S. Army Sgt. First Class Devin Sager, Centennial Training Center Range Operations Section, Fort Carson, Colorado.
Weapons systems included the M249 squad automatic weapon, M17 pistol and M4 carbine. The lane had an added element of redeploying a truck mounted M249 to continue suppressive fire after the gunner was notionally hit by enemy fire. The rain and subsequently the mud made things that much harder.
As the competitors returned to their rooms the rain ceased, just in time, as day three would be there sooner than expected.
Beginning before sunrise a night-into-day land navigation course gave competitors three and a half hours to find points they plotted under a head mounted red light. With no break in between, they would then move on to an obstacle course, again challenging their physical abilities.
Not yet lunch time, the day continued and the next event was aimed at testing the all-around skills of an Army warrior. Weapons skills including clearing, disassembling, reassembling, and immediate action on malfunctioning weapons of various types was followed by a KIM’s test. KIM’s is used by snipers to improve their ability to make observations, memorize them and be able to describe what they saw.
Traveling in groups of four the competitors moved to a medical challenge where they treated a patient, called in the medical evacuation team and then transport the patient to a landing zone. This air lift then took them a chemical, biological, nuclear, radiological lane. Competitors had to react to CS gas by donning all their gear within eight minutes while in a contaminated environment.
The competition would not be complete without a mystery event and on that final morning they would traverse one of Colorado’s most well-known sites: The Manitou Incline.
According to the Manitou Springs website, ‘The Incline’, as it’s referred to by locals, is the crown jewel of outdoor recreation and is a hike not for the faint of heart. With an elevation gain of 2,020 feet, this event was not easy for the competitors, many who had already gained 6,000 feet in elevation coming to Colorado Springs. However, at the top, the mountains view would make it all worthwhile.
“It’s an honor for us to showcase our talents for our Soldiers, and honestly an opportunity for them to showcase their talent as well. our landscapes our facilities,” U.S. Army Command Sgt. Maj. John Assaad, state command sergeant major, Colorado Army National Guard. “This says it all for mountain strong right here for us.”
In the end Barlow was named the Region VII Soldier of the Year and his counterpart, a Utah Army National Guard Staff Sergeant from 19th Special Forces Group (name withheld for security) was crowned NCO of the year. They will move on to the national competition in Flagstaff, Arizona later in 2021.
Being the Best Warrior “is a lot to live up to, but at the same time I’m glad to know that some of the training paid off and I was able to meet a lot of people have a lot of cool experiences” said Barlow. “It was awesome to build that comradery with all of [the other competitors] and they gave us a run for our money, that’s for sure.”