CAMP SWIFT, Texas – The atmosphere was a balance of friendly cooperation and fierce competition between the 28 contestants from two services during the Texas Military Forces’ first-ever joint Best Warrior Competition held on Camp Swift in Bastrop, Texas, Feb. 7-10, 2013.
While the overall winners will not be announced until April of this year, the top four competitors were: Spc. Adam Best (Army junior enlisted), with the Texas Army National Guard’s 36th Infantry Division Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion; Army Staff Sgt. Dominic Gonzales (Army noncommissioned officer), with the TXARNG 72nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team; Senior Airman Nicholas Martin (Air junior enlisted), with the Texas Air National Guard’s 147th Air Support Operations Squadron; and Tech Sgt. Francisco Tarango (Air noncommissioned officer), with the TXANG’s 204th Security Forces Squadron.
“This year we combined the Best Soldier Competition and the Best Airman Competition and created the first joint Best Warrior Competition,” said Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, the adjutant general of Texas. “We are bringing the Army and Air National Guard together. We serve together anyway. We serve together when we help our state [during times of crisis] and this pulls us together. Right now we are building friendships that will last for a long time. They are competing against each other but they are also cheering each other on. For me, this is a great event.”
The three-day contest began with the best of 22 rounds fired at the 9mm pistol range. Day two was an all-day ordeal starting with a six-mile, 35-pound ruck march to be completed in an hour and a half. Senior Airman Danny Moreno, a member of the Texas Air National Guard’s 204th Security Forces Squadron, was the clear winner.
“I remember my time was one hour and one minute,” said Moreno. “I remember it exactly. It’s my first ever ruck march so … it’s my best time. I thought it was pretty intense and tiring.”
Following the ruck march, the contestants qualified with the M4 carbine rifle then moved by two’s to compete in a timed “mystery” event performed in helmet, safety glasses, bullet-proof vest and assigned weapon. This year’s event included 25 squats then a water-jug SKED litter drag where they had to pull three, five-gallon water jugs strapped to a rough terrain patient extraction litter about 100 meters. Then the competitors placed their rifles on a mat and performed 25 “burpees” which is similar to an eight-count push up ending with a jump in the air.
The warriors then had to carry two five-gallon, water-filled jugs about 100 meters down around a traffic cone and back again. Then they fired 22 rounds with their rifle, cleared intended misfires, repeated the water jug carry, then performed 25 more “burpees” and finally 22 more rounds with a 9mm pistol to complete the event.
Martin finished this event several minutes ahead of his closest rival and left the range with an ear-to-ear grin shouting, “Piece of cake! Next time make it harder!”
Competitors closed the day out with a land navigation course where they had to find five points in an hour and a half or less.
Chief Master Sgt. Denise Jelinski-Hall, senior enlisted advisor to the chief of the National Guard Bureau, observed the day’s activities and congratulated the competitors for their participation and cooperation and provided a bit of motivation.
“What it’s going to take to win this competition is--when you’re exhausted and you have nothing left, you dig down deep, and find that one percent more,” she said. That one degree of effort will make all the difference. “It will set you apart from being a competitor to being a winner. You are making history by participating in this first Joint Best Warrior Competition.”
The last day of the contest began with a timed run through an obstacle course. Names like “The Tough One” aptly describes the eight-obstacle course made more difficult for this competition as the contestants had to perform different callisthenic exercises before assaulting each obstacle. The clear winner of this event was Tarango, nicknamed “Spiderman” by his comrades. He completed the course in a staggering 10 minutes and 27 seconds.
“I believe the personal pride is what’s driving each one of these contestants here,” said Command Chief Master Sgt. Kevin O’Gorman, the Texas Air National Guard’s State Command Chief Master Sergeant. “The old idea of one weekend a month and 15 days a year is long gone. All of our [competitors] here today are not only traditional Guardsmen but true warriors in a war fighting machine for the United States.”
Following completion of the obstacle course, the contestants had to complete several warrior tasks such as perform first-aid on a casualty and reassemble a 50-caliber machine gun. The soldiers and airmen closed out the day answering a volley of questions in a hand-written essay and an appearance board in their dress uniform.
Spc. Armando Apodaca, with the Texas Army National Guard’s 71st Theater Information Operations Group, felt the competition would be a benefit to all personnel in uniform today.
“We should all do it,” Apodaca said. “I think we should all train to be the best warrior possible.”
The grueling, multi-day competition is designed to test the physical fitness, aptitude, ability, resilience and stamina of today’s uniformed personnel. The events and tests are warrior tasks and battle drills relevant to today’s operating environment.
“This competition shows that the Texas Military Forces are not only a wartime fighting machine,” said O’Gorman. “It is also the team for our state. We are there when you need us. We are there when we need to be for a disaster in our state or helping our citizens, because we are citizens of the state of Texas.”
The Army Guard winners of this contest will compete in the Department of the Army’s regional competition, which will also be held at Camp Swift this year. While Best Warrior is a competition, it is also the most extensive and intense training opportunities afforded any service member.
“My goal is that our competition gets so keen and tough here in Texas that we’ll win the National Guard competition and then we will win the Army’s Best Soldier Competition,” said Nichols. “That’s gonna be the Texas goal. So watch out because we’re coming!”