News: Mississippi captures top honors at Southeastern Best Warrior Competition
Story by Master Sgt. Thomas Kielbasa
STARKE, Fla. – Two Soldiers from the Mississippi Army National Guard proved their mettle and earned the titles of top “warriors” during the Region III Best Warrior Competition at Camp Blanding Joint Training Center, this week.
Sgt. William Landrum and Staff Sgt. Cody Espinoza from the Mississippi Army National Guard received the titles of Region III Soldier and Non-Commissioned Officer of the Year, respectively, during a ceremony at Camp Blanding’s post headquarters Thursday evening.
Landrum and Espinoza competed against 18 other Soldiers and NCOs from nine other states and territories during the four-day event hosted by the Florida Army National Guard in north-central Florida. They will now compete nationally at the Army National Guard’s Best Warrior Competition later this year.
States and territories represented at this regional competition included: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
Beginning early on April 14, the Soldiers competed against each other during strenuous events including: the Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT), urban operations, call-for-fire, land navigation, obstacle courses, marksmanship and NCO and Soldier boards. A “mystery event” testing the Soldiers’ ability to change a Humvee wheel assembly at the post’s Combined Sustainment Maintenance Shop. Heavy rains during the competition on Tuesday and plummeting temperatures on Wednesday kept the six-mile ruck march, marksmanship, two-mile stress shoot, and land navigation portions of the competition demanding for the competitors.
“The competition was great – it was a great group of guys,” NCO of the Year Espinoza said. “Everybody helped everybody else. Even though we were competing against each other, we helped each other out.”
He noted the most physical day was Wednesday, which began with an early morning obstacle course and ended late in the afternoon with a series of running and shooting events.
Espinoza celebrated his 26th birthday on Tuesday during the obstacle course and marksmanship day of the competition. He is assigned to the Mississippi Army National Guard’s B Battery, 1-204th Air Defense Artillery, and is a resident of Sebastopol, Miss.
Landrum, 20, is assigned to the Mississippi Army National Guard’s B Company, 1-155th Infantry. He is a resident of Hattiesburg, Miss.
Sgt. Maj. Thomas Delano, operations sergeant major for Camp Blanding Joint Training Center, said the competition not only proved how valuable the facilities and resources of Camp Blanding are, but it the demonstrated the talents and dedication of the Region III Army National Guard Soldiers.
“We were looking for a well-rounded Soldier … we’ve attempted to challenge these Soldiers here,” Delano said. “They are just outstanding Soldiers – every one of them.”
“They are dedicated to what they do and to the National Guard, and it showed here this week,” Delano added.