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Agile Hunter 2016

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North Carolina National Guard
Raleigh, NC, US

NCNG’s most unique brigade crowns best warriors


Story by Sgt. Leticia Samuels

NCNG’s most unique brigade crowns best warriors RALEIGH, N.C. – For some, 30-degree weather is a sign to stay indoors and bundled up. For a select few North Carolina National Guard Soldiers, the cold is just an ingredient used in the recipe of motivation during the 60th Troop Command’s Best Warrior Competition at the Claude T. Bowers Military Center, here Feb. 6-7, 2016.

The 60th TC is one of the North Carolina Army National Guard’s six brigade-level commands comprised of an assortment of units, all with distinct missions and purposes making it the most diverse brigade in the NCARNG.

“I think the competition amongst their peers drives them to be the best,” Sgt. 1st Class Daina Key, the assistant brigade operations noncommissioned officer assigned to the 60th TC. “I think that it gives them a chance to shine.”

This competition allows soldiers of different military occupations to come together and show off their determination to win and rise above their 2,000 plus peers within the 60th TC.

“By the time this competition is over they know the soldiers that they competed against,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Kevin Whitaker, the command sergeant major of the 60th TC. “They get to hold them in a higher regard, they understand their unit is not just the best in the NCNG, but through this process they understand that there are great units throughout the entire state and they get a taste of that.”

The BWC is broken down into many different phases starting at the company level, then battalion, brigade/regiment, state/division, regional, command and lastly national level competition. The competitions below the brigade/regimental level allow leadership to identify the best candidate within the ranks by exposing them to tasks that challenge their military knowledge and physical endurance.

“Anytime that soldiers and their leaders can spend time together doing things that are a little bit different than the norm, it allows them to learn their personalities,” said Whitaker. “Anytime you get the opportunity to work with people in a more diverse way that just brings cohesion and team building to the program.”

After being selected to represent their units, soldiers move to the brigade level competition. During the mentally challenging and rigorous two-day competition, the nine competitors are split into two categories, which consist of junior enlisted soldiers and noncommissioned officers.

“It’s an honor to represent your unit and have everybody rooting for you and supporting you,” said Sgt. Jimmy Nguyen, a healthcare specialist assigned to the North Carolina Army National Guard’s Medical Detachment. “It’s a good feeling!”

An Army Physical Fitness Test begins the two-day competition measuring each soldier’s upper and lower body muscular endurance, stamina and agility. Soldiers are given two minutes to do as many push-ups as they can during the push-up event, two minutes during the sit-up event and run an identified two-mile route in the required time for their age group. Achieving a perfect score of 300 are what competitors strive for but have to channel their mental toughness while combatting fringed morning winds.

After the fitness test, the Soldiers dove into round-robin events involving numerous basic U.S. Army warrior tasks about weapon systems, map reading and radio etiquette.

“I love the land nav. (navigation), because it really threw me off,” said Spc. Joseph Colson, an explosive ordnance technician assigned to the 430th Ordnance Company (EOD). “I was expecting to just go in there and plot points and maybe get the distances in between points, but it went really in depth.”

Each competitor was required to write an essay about the history of the Troop Command and its importance to the NCNG’s mission, as well as demonstrating radio etiquette by simulating a call for fire to their higher headquarters requesting artillery support to destroy a target.

To kick off the final day, competitors had an hour and a half to complete a four-mile road march carrying a ruck sack filled with a 25-pound sandbag. The last leg of the competition requires competitors to don their Army Service Uniforms to appear before a leadership board consisting of senior NCOs and the command staff.

“In this brigade we don’t just do an appearance board, where questions are just asked and answered,” said Whitaker. “Everything that we do during the competition is foreshadowing what they will experience at the state competition and the regional competition, and if we are fortunate enough, the national competition.”

Time and effort are the biggest components needed to successfully train for this event. Competitors are paired with a sponsor from each unit to bestow their senior knowledge, guidance and experience. This bond creates a great working relationship between soldiers that will sharpen their competitive edge while boosting morale and cohesion.

“She (U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Tracy Johnson, a platoon sergeant assigned to the 430th Ordnance Company (EOD) has been helping me every step of the way,” said Colson. “She (Johnson) checked on me every week to make sure I was studying and making sure I was keeping up with my physical training.”

Colson said that while the competition was going on, Johnson would still do last minute studying for the board and other events.

Once all of the events are completed, the soldier’s points are tallied from each category.

Spc. David Childress, a fire direction specialist assigned to Alpha Company, 5th Battalion, 113th Field Artillery Regiment, and U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Daniel Moose, a recruiter assigned to NCNG’s Bravo Company Recruiting and Retention Detachment, took the gold this year. They will represent the brigade at the state-level competition alongside other fellow soldiers from NCNG’s other five brigades.

“It’s feels pretty good,” said Childress. “It’s humbling. I really didn’t expect to come through winning. I just used what my chain of command taught me.”

Moose said that one of his worries coming into the competition was competing against younger soldiers. He said that he is 30 this year, and this competition made him realize that even though he is older than a lot of the other competitors, there is still a lot of ‘fight left in the dog’.

“This experience alone was very humbling,” said Moose. “I recommend, especially to the lower enlisted and the new E-5’s and new E-6’s, to definitely hop on something like this. Take advantage of this, win or lose.”

Hopefully, these soldiers will have the opportunity to move on past the state-level competition and proudly represent the NCNG at the regional competition.

“I’m honored,” said Whitaker. “I don’t have the vocabulary to express it. I am in awe every day. When these soldiers come up here, and they are sitting across the table at the end of the physical appearance board, and they say ‘thank you sergeant major for the opportunity’. I wish they really understood how thankful I am that they are who they are, and I get a chance every day to be their command sergeant major. I’m humbled by it.”

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