By Sgt. 1st Class Jon Soucy
National Guard Bureau
CAMP JOSEPH T. ROBINSON, Ark. (7/23/13) - With 14 competitors vying to earn the title of being the best of the Army National Guard, the 2013 Army National Guard Best Warrior Competition kicked off here Monday. The grueling three-day event features a mix of both mental and physical challenges that test a wide variety of Soldier skills and the competitor's overall tactical and technical proficiency.
"It's been awesome, this experience," said Spc. Nathaniel Hill, a military police officer with the Nevada Army National Guard's 485th Military Police Company. "I'm just out here trying to do the best I can do."
During the competition, competitors will be faced with a variety of challenges from a physical fitness test to negotiating a number of tactical scenarios where they will have to engage targets, treat simulated casualties and take part in a ruck march of unknown distance.
For the competitors, getting to compete in this competition wasn't something that just happened. The preparation started months ago with competitors taking part in and winning at the unit, state and regional levels before this competition.
"The experience overall has been challenging because it's not just what happens here, it's what has happened at previous levels and the preparations for what it takes win there to get here," said Army Sgt. Anthony Sturgis, with the Maine National Guard's 11th Civil Support Team (Weapons of Mass Destruction).
For Sturgis, preparing to compete in the Best Warrior Competition meant spending time out taking part in land navigation, additional physical training sessions and going over a variety aspects of Army doctrine, history and lore. That also meant pushing hard to prepare.
"We'd train for the hardest environment so we'd be running up (what seemed like) 90-degree angle hill," said Sturgis, adding that his unit was especially helpful with getting him ready to compete.
But, preparing for the competition also meant having the discipline to follow through.
"Motivating myself to go to the gym every day was a challenge," said Hill, adding that that motivation in part came from "knowing if I came here and embarrassed myself, it would be pretty terrible."
The competition itself, said competitors, means honing in on basic Soldier skills.
"The big thing about this is it makes you focus on those basic Soldier skills," said Sturgis. "You have to make sure you're technically and tactically proficient, just like the NCO creed states."
And taking part in the competition also means those skills will be passed on to other Soldiers, said Sturgis.
"It teaches you the basic Soldier skills and how to refine them," he said. "Here is where it really rolls in and you see the different level it takes to compete here. When I go back to my unit and my state I'm going to help the next guy prepare because now I have a better insight into what it takes to compete here and what it includes."
But, that also goes beyond preparing simply for the competition.
"There's guys back in units that don't get this sort of training on some of the weapons systems," said Hill. "I can show them how to do things, like land navigation and basic Soldier skills. There are a lot of folks that don't get that practice and you need to pass that on, help them out so they can be better Soldiers."
And that translates to better leaders.
"We need to be preparing our Soldiers (for things like the competition) and putting the time into developing our Soldiers so they can be future leaders," Sturgis said.
That ties into developing a strong foundation.
"If you get your good foundation, it's going to make you better at whatever you do," said Hill, adding that his job as an MP has acted as a foundation for some of the events in the competition.
"We did a (rules of engagement exercise) and that's pretty big as an MP," he said.
In the end, however, though only two will be given the title of the best of the Army Guard. It often comes back to simply putting out your best effort.
"If you put out your best effort you're going to succeed," said Sturgis. "What you put in you get back out."