FORT BARFOOT, Va. - Virginia National Guard Staff Sgt. Dan Abbott and West Virginia National Guard Spc. Bret Williams took top honors in the five-day Army National Guard Region II Best Warrior Competition May 15-19.
Abbott, a 12N horizontal construction engineer assigned to Fort Barfoot, was named Region II Noncommissioned Officer of the Year, and Williams, a 12W carpentry and masonry specialist assigned to the 922nd Engineer Detachment, was named Region II Soldier of the Year. West Virginia National Guard Staff Sgt. Avery Liller and Pennsylvania National Guard Spc. Nicolas Shaffer were named runners-up in their respective categories.
Eleven ARNG NCOs and Soldiers representing Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia competed, testing their physical and mental strength, stamina and endurance.
“I have the utmost respect for these guys,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Irving Reed Jr., the Virginia Army National Guard command sergeant major. “We threw a lot of stuff at them this week and they dealt with it. I’m extremely proud of each and every one of them. Based upon what we saw, I think we’re going to be strong going to nationals. I think we’re sending two strong candidates, and who knows what might happen.”
The competition began with a written exam the day the Soldiers and NCOs from the region arrived at Fort Barfoot. The next day, competitors endured a 13-mile ruck march and Army warrior Tasks, including a grenade throw, communications, medical and weapons tests. Contestants then traveled to Virginia State University in Ettrick to conduct a combat water survival test.
The next morning, the NCOs and Soldiers conducted a physical fitness challenge and a timed obstacle course. Later, the group tackled day and night land navigation.
On the last two days of the event, the group competed in a timed multi-weapon challenge and conducted appearance boards before the recognition ceremony.
Abbott, who placed first in the physical fitness challenge, the multi-weapon event, land navigation and the confidence course, said it takes more than physical prowess to be successful in this type of competition.
“Physical preparedness was huge, and honestly, a huge part of it was mental toughness,” said Abbott. “It’s just being determined that you’re going to succeed no matter how bad it hurts. A competition that runs at this level —there’s no way that you’re going to be so physically prepared that it’s not going to break you off. These are built to break Soldiers down; that’s the whole idea.”
Williams, who finished the ruck march with the fastest time and performed strongly in the other events, credited his train-up for preparing him to win Soldier of the Year.
“I think the best thing that helped me was the ability to get on ADOS orders before the week and really train up with my NCO,” said Williams. “He really pushed me to my limits while we trained. I did a lot of studying, physical activity and some shooting and land nav.”
Williams and Abbott will represent Region II and their states at the national competition in Alaska in July.
“I’m beyond excited,” said Williams. “I’m 25 years old, I’ve been in the state for 25 years, I love West Virginia, and I’m beyond excited.”
“I’m very excited,” said Abbott. “I moved to Virginia about five years ago, and I love this state. I’m very excited to go to Alaska and show them something.”