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NEWS | May 9, 2024

Oklahoma Guardsmen Face New Adversary in Best Warrior Competition

By Sgt. Haden Tolbert, Oklahoma National Guard

OKLAHOMA CITY - Guardsmen faced an emerging and rapidly growing threat in Oklahoma’s 2024 Best Warrior Competition.

Participants were given 20 minutes to enter a heavily wooded area and camouflage themselves before sergeants major began searching for them. The competitors were unaware that the sergeants major were aided by multiple uncrewed aircraft systems, commonly called drones, coordinated by the Oklahoma National Guard Counter Unmanned Aircraft Systems School.

The drones searched for the Guardsmen from various heights, peering through Camp Gruber’s dense foliage with infrared cameras. A small first-person-view UAS also flew below the canopy level.

Formed in 2023, the Oklahoma National Guard’s Counter Unmanned Aircraft School has introduced new ways to train and learn for units across the state.

Col. Shane Riley, the director of military support for the Oklahoma National Guard, which oversees the cUAS School, said the event was included to challenge the Soldiers and NCOs to take that feeling of uneasiness back to their units and talk with fellow Guardsmen about the threats UAS pose on modern battlefields.

“What we intend to be able to do here is bring solutions and techniques to Soldiers and expose leaders to this environment now so that they’re competitive down the road,” Riley said. “This will enhance our ability to be competitive overseas and enhance our ability to respond to domestic events by both understanding the airspace management, the protection assets and the interagency cooperation that has to occur for us to be able to operate in this environment safely and effectively.”

“It makes us adapt,” said Staff Sgt. Brock Wilson, 120th Medical Company (Area Support), 120th Engineer Battalion, 90th Troop Command. “Adapting and evolving and implementing challenges into competitions like this is one of the first steps to really growing our skill set as an Army.”



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