News: AZ Guard soldiers compete to find the best of the best
Story by Sgt. Crystal Reidy
PHOENIX - The Arizona Army National Guard held its annual Best Warrior Competition, a statewide event designed to test the limits of physical endurance and combat skills, here and in Florence, Ariz., Feb. 25–28.
“Overall the competition was a great event,” said Master Sgt. Edward Jimenez, competition non-commissioned officer in charge with the 153rd Brigade Support Battalion. “We could not have done it without the help of all the command sergeants major in the state.”
Units sent 24 of the best soldiers, noncommissioned officers, first sergeants, junior warrant officers, and junior officers to compete in a total of 16 events that tested their warrior skills including an Army Physical Fitness Test, a ruck march, weapons qualifications and many other skills soldiers use on the battlefield.
“The APFT was fun and challenging because we had higher standards,” Spc. Christian Acker, a member of the 363rd Explosive Ordinance Detachment said.
A number of new events were added to the competition this year, including shooting on the move, M9 pistol qualification, nine-line unexploded ordinance report and headspace and timing for a .50-caliber Browning machine gun.
“We added events like shooting on the move so soldiers would be tested on manipulating their weapons on a time limit while making corrections to malfunctions,” Jimenez said.
The events were held at three venues: Allen Readiness Center at Papago Park Military Reservation, Tempe Town Lake and Florence Military Reservation.
In preparation, organizers focused on what they saw at the regional competition last year.
“We wanted events heavily focused on weapons and physical events that would test their endurance,” Jimenez said.
After the two-mile land navigation course, soldiers immediately had to sprint 50 meters; turn around and lunge back 50 meters before starting the warrior skills tests. During the five tests, contestants also pulled heavy truck chains up a hill, flipped large tires and carried sandbags up and down hills.
“The competitors showed determination through the entire competition,” Jimenez said. “They represented their units well.”
Soldiers didn’t just have to prepare for the physical events; they had to participate in an appearance board.
To prepare for the board, Acker studied four to five hours a day leading up to the competition.
“Studying was pretty intense,” he said. “My fiancé would sit and quiz me over and over again.”
Each competitor was paired prior to the competition with a sponsor of their choosing to provide support.
“My role as a sponsor is to make sure he is constantly motivated and ensure he has all of his supplies for the competition,” said Sgt. Damien O’brien, a truck driver with the 2220th Transportation Company, who sponsored Pfc. Aaron Hoyt from his unit. “I am here to support him anyway I can.”
First Lt. Edward Flinn, a scout sniper platoon leader with the 158th Infantry Regiment, agreed that having a sponsor helps during the competition.
“Having someone to strategize with for the different events is helpful,” he said.
The competition ended on Friday Feb. 28, and many of the contestants had to report for drill weekend the following day.
“I don’t look back,” Acker said. “I always look forward to the next mission or event.”
The winners will be announced at an awards banquet in Phoenix, March 22.