An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Home : News : Article View
NEWS | July 30, 2020

NY Army Guard adapts Best Warrior Competition to COVID-19

By Spc. Marla Ogden New York National Guard

CAMP SMITH TRAINING SITE, N.Y. – When they weren't running, they wore masks and temperatures were being taken constantly, and anything they touched was cleaned and disinfected.

But nine New York Army National Guard Soldiers managed to master the tasks of avoiding a COVID-19 infection while also demonstrating their military skills and physical fitness in the annual Best Warrior Competition held at Camp Smith Training Site, July 24-26.

The New York Army National Guard's annual Best Warrior Competition was supposed to happen in May. Still, it was postponed as the COVID-19 pandemic locked down the state and the New York National Guard mobilized over 3,600 troops to respond.

There was a chance the event would be canceled. But the Joint Force Headquarters non-commissioned officers who run the event managed to adapt and work through the issues, said New York Army National Guard Command Sgt. Major David Piwowarski.

"The contestants wore masks during events that were not highly physical," Piwowardski said. "And the staff wore masks, disinfected surface areas, worked to maintain social distancing and thermometers were available."

What usually is a four to five-day competition was crammed into 30 hours of activity to lessen exposure to each other and make up for the last-minute scheduling, Piwowarski explained.

The 30 hours of events included a fitness test, combat lane, day and night land navigation courses, an appearance board, Army warrior tasks, a written test, an essay and rifle and a pistol course. The event culminated with a 12-mile road march on the final day.

"I'm extremely proud of these best warriors because they're strong and adapted quickly to the changes we made to the competition," Piwowarski said.

"This year's competition was limited in some ways by COVID-19 protocols. However, there was no limit to the intensity of the competition or the contestants," Piwowarski said.

"The competition was more intense, but safer overall," stated Piwowarski. "It had to be something that still challenged these best warriors because they're good Soldiers and deserve it."

Each year, a non-commissioned officer and a junior enlisted Soldier are chosen as winners in the state competition to represent the New York Army National Guard at the regional level.

Two Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 69th Infantry, Staff Sgt. Matthew Ortiz, assigned to Headquarters Company, and Cpl. Troy Perez, assigned to Alpha Company, took top honors this year.

Perez and Ortiz are both New York Fire Department emergency medical technicians. They became friends several years ago while training at the academy and trained side-by-side while preparing for the Best Warrior Competition.

"We stayed motivated and pushed each other every day," Perez said.

The training was made more fun by picking different locations to workout in, Ortiz said.

"We'd take the American flag and run it across the Brooklyn Bridge," said Ortiz. "It helped keep our morale up."

Both Perez and Ortiz are thankful for the training and guidance provided by Sgt. Joseph Ryan, assigned to Headquarters Company, who competed in the 2019 national competition at Camp Gruber, Oklahoma.

"He was an incredible mentor, and took personal time out to help us prepare," said Ortiz. "His experience was invaluable in helping us train and getting us ready."

Perez expressed that he is honored to have been a competitor in this year's competition. He believes that his skills as an EMT better prepared him for the event.

"Being an EMT puts you in many stressful environments and it helps you perform well under pressure, which translates well into this type of competition," said Perez.

The Best Warrior Competition is the only competition that allows Soldiers to showcase their abilities and be recognized individually by the state.

"There's no other time a Soldier can do this individually because we're a team," Piwowarski said.

However, the winners of the competition said that they don't do it for the individual recognition-- they do it to motivate and inspire other Soldiers.

"There's a tremendous reflection on Perez and me for the Soldiers in our unit," said Ortiz. "I want to go back and be able to show that I'm worthy of those Soldiers, that I'm capable and ready to get the job done."

Both Perez and Ortiz will compete at the regional competition at Camp Ethan Allen Training Site in Vermont, August 13 -16. The winners there compete to be the best in the Army National Guard at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, in September.

"All of the competitors represented their units in the New York Army National Guard with excellence," said Piwowarski. "We look forward to seeing them compete at the next level and represent us with pride."

 

 

Related Articles
Joint Terminal Attack Controllers from the Armed Forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Marine Forces Reserve, and Maryland National Guard pose for a photo during Deliberate Response '24 at Warren Grove Range, New Jersey, April 6, 2024. The exercise demonstrated the partnership between the Maryland National Guard and the AFBiH through the State Partnership Program.
Maryland Guard, Bosnia and Herzegovina Conduct JTAC Training
By Master Sgt. Christopher Schepers, | April 12, 2024
WARREN GROVE, N.J. - Joint Terminal Attack Controllers from the Armed Forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina participated in their first live-fire training exercise with state partner the Maryland National Guard April 2-6 at the...

Air Force Staff Sgt. Javin Delgado, an electronic warfare specialist with the Hawaii Air National Guard’s 154th Wing, prepares to calibrate electronic warfare equipment as Senior Airman Oscar Mendoza, a space systems operator with the 148th Space Operations Squadron, looks on during Vulcan Guard Bolt 6, Ramstein Air Base, Germany, March 27, 2024. Though not part of the mission planning portion of the space-focused exercise, Delgado and Mendoza showcased EW assets to Vulcan Guard participants and distinguished visitors.
National Guard-led Space Exercise Helps Build Programs for NATO Partners
By Air Force Master Sgt. Erich B.Smith, | April 8, 2024
RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany – About 50 members of the Air National Guard and Romanian and Polish Armed Forces focused on space as a warfighting domain during exercise Vulcan Guard Bolt 6 at NATO’s Allied Air Command in late...

Soldiers and Airmen assigned to the 2nd Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team complete a communication check before executing an exercise aboard the USS Slater museum ship in Albany, New York, March 28, 2024. The CST Soldiers and Airmen worked with the New York State Police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to identify radiological sources aboard the ship during the joint training exercise.
New York Guard Civil Support Team Trains Aboard Ship
By Maj. Jean Kratzer, | April 4, 2024
ALBANY, N.Y. - Twenty-one Soldiers and Airmen assigned to the New York National Guard’s 2nd Civil Support Team tested their ability to detect weapons of mass destruction aboard a World War II destroyer docked in downtown...