News: 1-158th CAV dominates at Best Warrior Competition
Story by Staff Sgt. Michael Davis
REISTERSTOWN, Md. – The Maryland Army National Guard conducted its 2014 Best Warrior Competition at Camp Fretterd and Gunpowder Military Reservations – near Reisterstown and in Glen Arm, Md. – to determine this year’s best noncommissioned officer and Soldier, March 13-16.
Sgt. Michael Louis Firth from C Co., 1st Squadron, 158th Cavalry Regiment, was named NCO of the Year, and Spc. Michael Robinson, from the same unit, was named Soldier of the Year.
Staff Sgt. Michael Casterline from 1100th Theater Aviation Sustainment Maintenance Group and Spc. Jesse Spencer from C Co., 1st Battalion, 169th General Support Aviation Battalion, were the runners-up.
The contest is held each spring to determine Maryland’s finest NCO and Soldier. Qualified ranks, private through specialist, compete for Soldier of the Year, while corporals through sergeants first class compete for NCO of the Year.
Soldiers tested their skills, strength and knowledge in a variety of events – from a written exam, the Army Physical Fitness Test, land navigation and individual weapons qualification, to a road march and an appearance board. Each event contributed points to a Soldier’s combined score, with the winners, Firth and Robinson, having the highest overall scores.
This year, 10 competitors were chosen from various units to compete in the three-day event. The winners will now advance to the Region II Best Warrior Competition to represent the MDARNG.
“I wanted to represent my squadron; I wanted to represent my unit, Charlie 1-158 Cavalry,” said Robinson, when asked what drew him to the competition. “I wanted to represent them well, and that’s why I’m here.”
Robinson said he also feels extremely confident that he will continue to represent his unit well when he goes to regionals.
Firth, Robinson’s partner in the competition and a fellow infantryman, said he is also ready and that he has no time for breaks.
“Winning is a mixed blessing,” Firth said. “Obviously it’s really cool to be on top, it’s great to win, but the hard work starts again tomorrow. Tomorrow I’ve got to go out to run with my rucksack, study more, and get ready for the next level.”
Firth said this is his first time participating in a BWC and that it felt good to go head-to-head with some of the best in Maryland.
Another competitor, Sgt. April-Mae Ridenour with 32nd Civil Support Team, agreed.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Ridenour said. “You meet a lot of good people, so it’s a good camaraderie – it’s like a morale booster.”
While Ridenour is no stranger to the BWC, having previously competed in 2012, other Soldiers, such as Sgt. Christopher Butler and Spc. Ryan Stotler were the new kids on the block.
Butler and Stotler, of Detachment 1, Headquarters Support Company, 29th Infantry Division, were both first-time competitors and first-time representatives for their units. Normally, 29th Division Soldiers compete in Virginia’s BWC.
Butler and Stotler both said they were excited to compete, but participating in the BWC meant they had to balance life events along with their normal National Guard duties while getting physically and mentally ready for the event.
“A lot of it was studying the Army Study Guide,” said Butler. “As M-Day Soldiers [who drill] one weekend out of the month and two weeks out of the year, trying to find time during drill weekends, on our own time after work, [or by] meeting up and talking with one another to study – you spend a lot of time trying to prepare for it.”
The other contestants were Sgt. 1st Class Harold Murdock, an Honor Guard member representing the Maryland Military Department; Sgt. Charles Tucker, 224th Area Support Medical Company; and Spc. Ariel Grissinger, 29th Military Police Company.
After the competition concluded, Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas Beyard, the Maryland Army National Guard command sergeant major, commended all participants on a job well done and encouraged other MDARNG Soldiers to aim for next year’s BWC.
“The most important thing leaders can do is try to look in their formations and find our future competitors,” Beyard said. “Some Soldiers you have to actually go to speak with and encourage them to participate, but I would say that for a Soldier coming up through the ranks, participating here and doing well is really good for their career.”