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    Oregon National Guard Soldiers test their limits at annual Best Warrior Competition

    Oregon Soldiers vie for Best Warrior titles

    Photo By Maj. Leslie Reed | An Oregon Army National Guard Soldier high-crawls through a portion of the obstacle...... read more read more



    Story by Capt. Leslie Reed 

    41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team

    SALEM, OREGON - - More than twenty competitors began the Oregon National Guard’s 2016 Best Warrior Competition, but only two could finished on top as the Soldier and Noncommissioned Officer (NCO) of the Year. This year, it was southern Oregon’s infantrymen from 1st Battalion, 186th Infantry Regiment, 41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team, who walked away from the annual competition with some serious bragging rights.

    The three grueling days of competition, August 18-20, at Camp Rilea near Warrenton, Oregon, included traditional events like the obstacle course, weapons qualification and other Soldiering tasks. However, the competitors were also faced with some non-traditional events such as, “Pandora’s Box,” in which three separate weapons systems were disassembled and mixed together and Soldiers were expected to reassemble them blindfolded as much as they could within 10-minutes. Then there was the “Omaha Beach” event where Soldiers entered the Pacific Ocean wearing full battle-rattle and ran from the water to the beach, up the steep sand dunes while carrying heavy ammunition boxes to simulate resupply during the infamous World War II infiltration mission.

    Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Ash, platoon sergeant with 1st Platoon, Company D, 1-186th Infantry Battalion, remembers the run that kicked-off the competition as being both the most difficult, yet the one he felt most confident about.

    “I’ve done quite a bit of running. I used to run cross-country when I was younger,” he said. “I can pace myself fairly well. Not a problem. I started off … mile-two, good, mile-three, mile-four. Burgers for dinner before starting that run, probably not the greatest idea. Changing surfaces from paved to gravel; the running shoes that I had only broke in about a month ago; I developed a pretty good blister on the ball of my foot and had to finish it out with it. That 8.5-mile run, right off the bat, was a challenge that set the pace for the whole thing.”

    Ash said preparation, practice and continual self-improvement are the key.

    “Find someone who is good at those types of skills and work with them,” he said. “Find the subject matter expert. They exist everywhere. Its not just infantry; its not just combat arms. There are people that have a passion for shooting or for long distance running or for hiking, backpacking. Find out who those people are and start training with them.”

    The advice Ash gives, is exactly what Spc. Emily Searles , a 36-Bravo, finance technician with Joint Force Headquarters, did to prepare for the competition. She spent some of her annual training time studying.
    “I had a couple of months notice so I was a little nervous,” she said. “I worked out a lot more. I studied a lot for the boards. The only infantry experience I’ve had was in basic training, so I had to look up all that stuff and take apart a lot of weapons that I had never taken apart before, so it was lots of fun.”

    Searles said her unit didn’t have some of the larger weapon systems, like the M240 and M249, so she had to check those out from another unit..

    “We only had an M4 and M9 to really practice on, so that made things a little bit more difficult,” she said.

    Searles felt confident on the written essay portion that the Soldiers were given late in the evening on the first day of the competition. One of the essay questions was, “if someone was asking you about wanting to join the National Guard, what would you tell them?”

    “My answer is that it helps you grow as a person, you learn a lot about yourself,” she said.

    Searles joined the Guard when she was 17-years-old. She said going to basic training in between her junior and senior year mad eher realize she had grown up a little more than her peers when she came back.

    “The military has taught me a lot, even in this competition,” she said. “This is probably the most challenging thing I’ve ever done in my entire life. The military pushes you to learn more about yourself, to see what you can do. If I wasn’t in the military, I would think ‘I could never do that’ and here I am doing it!”

    Spc. Mitchell Sierra, with Company A, 1-186th Infantry Battalion, took home the “Soldier of the Year” title. He said, “When it comes down to it, it really depends on the individual; what you do when you’re not training, when you’re not at drill weekend.”

    Throughout the competition, Sierra had events he felt more confident in than others and shared some advice for future competitors.

    “They definitely need to take care of themselves, eat right, and study when you can,” he said. “That can definitely make the one point difference between first and second place.”

    Ash, the NCO of the Year, was also one of only six Soldiers to earn the Expert Infantryman Badge during his unit’s annual training at Camp Roberts, California, in July.

    “I’m sort of a ‘Type-A person, so if I want it, I’m going to go get it,” he said. “I’m competitive like that, especially if it’s something I believe in, something I want to go after.”

    He says he wished he had taken advantage of these opportunities to compete when he was a much younger Soldier and NCO.

    “Being one of the older competitors this time, I’m glad to know I can still do it; glad to know I can still lead from the front,” said Ash.

    Both Ash and Sierra will represent the Oregon National Guard in the upcoming Region 6 Best Warrior Competition, which will take place in Washington state in May of 2017. The winners from the regional competition will then progress on to the national competition.



    Date Taken: 09.20.2016
    Date Posted: 09.20.2016 19:05
    Story ID: 210126
    Location: WARRENTON, OR, US 

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