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    California Army National Guard honors their best warriors

    California Army National Guard honors their best warriors

    Photo By Sgt. Glen Baker | Spc. John Cunningham (left), a scout with B Troop, 1-18th Cavalry, 79th Infantry...... read more read more

    LOS ALAMITOS, CA, UNITED STATES

    10.23.2011

    Story by Sgt. Glen Baker 

    224th Sustainment Brigade

    LOS ALAMITOS, Calif. - It had been 37 days since the California National Guard Best Warrior Competition finalists were able to take a break and think about their September performance at Camp San Luis Obispo. Now the wait is over, and the winners have been rewarded for their efforts.

    An estimated 30,000 spectators watched Oct. 23 as two pilots who had recently returned from a yearlong Iraq deployment with the CNG’s 1st Battalion (Assault), 140th Aviation Regiment, landed their UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters on the flight line at Joint Forces Training Base-Los Alamitos and this year’s Best Warrior Competition finalists stepped out. While an Army band played, the Best Warrior competitors marched to a stage and awaited skydivers who would drop from a World War II-era plane with the names of the winners: Staff Sgt. Demetrius McCowan and Spc. John Cunningham.

    This year’s top non-commissioned officer and soldier in the California Army National Guard, respectively, were presented their awards during the Wings, Wheels and Rotors Expo, a family event that brings a large crowd to the base each year. McCowan and Cunningham were the first Best Warrior winners to be recognized during the annual expo.

    “I feel like I did my best,” said McCowan, a sheet metal aircraft structural mechanic for the 1106th Theater Aviation Support Maintenance Group who has been in the military for 11 years. “I trained as hard as I could. I pushed myself to my physical limit and pulled out every trick I had.”

    After proving themselves during Best Warrior competitions at the company, battalion and brigade levels, nine competitors struggled and sweated through seven days of contests on Camp San Luis Obispo from Sept. 11-17. The events included an obstacle course, combatives tournament, 10-kilometer ruck march, Army Combat Readiness Test, rock wall climb, weapons qualification, Army Warrior Tasks, essay writing and navigation.

    “All three of us who were competing on the lower enlisted level had some events that we were the best at,” said Cunningham, a scout with Troop B, 1st Squadron, 18th Cavalry Regiment, who has been in the Guard for five years and is working on a degree in aerospace engineering at Cal Poly Pomona. “So [the winner] really could have been any of us.”

    McCowan said his ultimate goal as a soldier and in the Best Warrior Competition is to lead by example.

    “I want to spark motivation in the junior enlisted and the junior NCOs in my own unit,” he said. “Maybe they’ll follow and try to do the same.”

    McCowan and Cunningham will now have an opportunity to compete against Best Warrior winners from the rest of National Guard Region 7: Arizona, Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Guam. The winners of that competition will move on to compete for the honor of national Best Warrior.

    McCowan said he thinks he has a great chance to win Region 7.

    “I had really short notice showing up to this competition, and all the guys that I’ve competed with feel that I’ve been a solid competitor,” he said. “So if I can win [this] competition with this little training, then I think at the next level I’ll probably do a lot of damage.”

    Spc. Brian Quinonez, an information technology specialist with Signal Company, 224th Sustainment Brigade, said he is confident in his abilities but still felt nervous, even during the company-level competition, because there were so many top-notch soldiers vying for the title. Though Quinonez placed first in the weapons course and combatives events, he said he plans to perform better next year.

    “I’m going to study and work on the skills that made me weak in some of the competition,” he said. “I didn’t know what to expect coming into this competition … but nobody had an ‘I’m better than you’ kind of attitude. I’ve learned a great deal from all these NCOs. I’m glad I got to compete with them.”

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    NEWS INFO

    Date Taken: 10.23.2011
    Date Posted: 11.10.2011 21:23
    Story ID: 79885
    Location: LOS ALAMITOS, CA, US 

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    California Army National Guard honors their best warriors