SC, UNITED STATES
EASTOVER, S.C. — At 4 a.m. on April 29th, the rain poured down on McCrady Training Center, as 18 Soldiers prepared to take the Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT), the kick-off event for the grueling National Guard Region III Best Warrior Competition. Ten enlisted soldiers and eight noncommissioned officers (NCO) were prepared for extreme mental and physical tests over the four-day competition of basic military knowledge, competence and stamina.
These 18 warriors represented the top NCOs and top Army National Guard soldiers from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Tennessee and the Virgin Islands.
“This competition represents a combination of physical and mental discipline as well as pride for our state of Florida. It exemplifies how I act under pressure and reveals how I can improve myself,” said Pvt. 1st Class Lee Bailes, D. Company, 2nd Battalion, 124th Infantry Regiment, Fla. Army National Guard.
After completion of the APFT, the soldiers moved onto the call for fire and rules of engagement simulators. Their basic knowledge of these stressful events was tested and each soldier was given a “go” or a “no go.” Upon completing these tasks, a M240B Machine Gun and a M249 Squad Automatic Weapon waited for each soldier to clear, disassemble, assemble and perform a function check, while being timed and evaluated.
“My ultimate goal is to do the best that I can and to compete against the best. If I can make it then I’ll go to the next level and train my hardest for that,” said Sgt. Anthony Calvi, A Company, 1st Battalion, 124th Infantry Regiment, Fla. Army National Guard.
To conclude the first day’s events, the soldiers completed the urban operations lane. Each soldier completed five tasks consisting of engaging targets in an urban environment, transporting a casualty, putting a Multiband Inter/Intra Team Radio (MBITR) into operation, calling a nine-line MEDEVAC and employing grenades.
“This competition has tested my strength and pushed me to strive for being a better soldier. I am honored to be here among these warriors to compete,” said Spc. Dustin Wilmoth, A. Company, 60th Troop Command, N.C. Army National Guard.
If day one wasn’t trying enough for the soldiers, day two proved to be even tougher. While battling the southern humidity, the competitors started the day by running an obstacle course followed by a six-mile road march, and then straight to the ranges.
“The best event has been the ruck march because it really pushes you to challenge yourself,” said Staff Sgt. Jesse Mullinax, 218th Regiment (LDR), S.C. Army National Guard. “You get to places along the route where you want to quit and you just keep telling yourself to keep running to the next point until you get the maximum amount out of yourself, then you go a little further.”
There was little time for the soldiers to relax. At the ranges, there was familiarization fire with the M249, zeroing of their M4 and then qualification with the M4. The stress shoot rounded out the day. At this event, the Soldiers stamina was tested as they moved dismounted through the course of fire, engaging targets as they became available. While maneuvering the course the soldiers were evaluated on evacuating a casualty, dragging a litter to a helicopter landing zone as well as other strenuous activities to test their endurance, all the while engaging targets at each firing position.
“It’s been a strenuous competition, both mentally and physically. There’s been a lot of good competition, a lot of solid guys from all over the southeast who came here to compete. I really think it’s brought the best out of everybody,” said Sgt. Christopher Baird, F Troop, 2-278th Armored Cavalry Regiment, Tenn. Army National Guard.
At 4 a.m. on the third day of the competition, soldiers started out with the land navigation test. Using a compass and map, during limited visibility, the soldiers moved by foot to the given points. Upon completion of land navigation, the soldiers had some time to re-collect themselves and prepare for the mystery event later that day.
The mystery event is designed to provide soldiers an unknown that they may have not prepared for during training. Each competitor’s ability to adapt to the situation, overcome mental and physical obstacles, and demonstrate leadership attributes in a stressful and unknown environment was tested. To finish off the day, the enlisted soldiers had to recite the soldier’s Creed in two minutes or less, while the NCOs recited the Creed of the noncommissioned officer in four minutes or less.
“I have seen a great sense of camaraderie among the competitors even though this is a competition,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Brickley, Jr., command sergeant major of S.C. “They have all had to push themselves physically and mentally throughout the entire competition, from start to finish.”
“It’s a great opportunity for me to be a part of this competition; to showcase my knowledge and skills against the best of the best from other states,” said Staff Sgt. Roshawn Murraine, 610th Quartermaster Company, Virgin Islands Army National Guard.
The final day of the competition focused on testing the soldier’s mental strength. Each Soldier wore their dress blues and stood in front of a board consisting of various state command sergeants major.
“The competition has been challenging and fun,” said Spc. Benjamin LaCrosse, 278th Military Police Company, Ga. Army National Guard. “I’ve learned a lot about myself and what I’m capable of. It’s been a great experience.”
At the culmination of the competition, each soldier and NCO donned their dress uniform once more for the awards banquet to reflect back on their experiences and honor the winners.
“I saw the future of the National Guard grow stronger than ever these last five days,” said Brickley, during the ceremony. “I saw camaraderie, everyone came together to do a job. We all have to be prepared to take care of our state, our country and others who are in harm’s way. Every one of you are winners.”
Maj. Gen. Robert E. Livingston, Jr., the adjutant general of South Carolina was the guest speaker at the banquet, and gave each soldier praise for their dedication.
“One of most difficult things is how society does not understand the sacrifice that is made for them daily. You understand by being leaders you ask our soldiers to make sacrifices,” said Livingston. “You are unique individuals; you are the best warrior.”
Sgt. Nkosi Campbell, Recruiting and Retention Command, N.C. Army National Guard, took the top spot for the NCO competition and Spc. Robert Parrish, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 118th Infantry Regiment, S.C. Army National Guard was announced as the top Soldier.
“This was a great competition. This is my second time going to the National Guard Bureau competition, I was the runner up last time,” said Campbell. “This competition showed me what my weaknesses are and I know where I need to improve.”
“I feel honored to represent all these states. The competition was great, it is an amazing feeling,” said Parrish.
“It is a great accomplishment for every soldier to compete at this level and they all should feel proud they made it this far and represented their state,” said Brickley.
Campbell and Parrish will go on to compete at the Army National Guard Best Warrior Competition from July 21-25 at Camp Robinson, North Little Rock, Ark., to vie for the top spot once more. If they take that honor, they then move on to the Army Best Warrior Competition later this year.
This work, Soldiers compete in Region III Best Warrior Competition, by MAJ Jamie Delk, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.