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NEWS | March 9, 2022

National Guard members compete to be ‘Best Warrior’

By National Guard Bureau

WASHINGTON – National Guard members across the nation demonstrated their Soldier skills in three days of grueling competition for the coveted “Best Warrior” title.

Soldiers and noncommissioned officers competed at the state level in a series of physically and mentally demanding challenges for a chance to advance to regional versions of the annual competition later this year.

Soldiers were tested on marksmanship and weapons skills, day and night land navigation, the Army physical fitness test, an obstacle course, Army warrior tasks, a 12-mile ruck march and a board interview. 

“The Best Warrior Competition tests our Soldiers’ basic soldiering skills to move, shoot and communicate,” said Command Sgt. Maj. James Ryan Jimenez, Hawaii Army National Guard. “This measures proficiency. This builds readiness.”

At Camp Atterbury in Indiana, 13 noncommissioned officers and 12 junior enlisted Soldiers competed in 13 events March 5-7.

Staff Sgt. Michael Bougher, of the 38th Sustainment Brigade, and Spc. Kyle Lawson, of Company C, 2nd Battalion, 134th Airborne Regiment, took first place in their respective categories.

“My favorite part of the weekend was being surrounded by great competition in an environment that allowed me to put my craft to the test in an elevated training situation,” Lawson said. “Training like this can be difficult to find. Winning or losing, we each return to our units with valuable knowledge and as a better leader.”

“My favorite part of the competition was definitely the emplacement and detonation of the M18A1 claymore,” said Bougher. “The hardest part of the competition was completing the 12-mile ruck march at the end of a very long day that was full of other physically demanding events.”

The two will represent Indiana in the regional ‘Best Warrior’ competition in Minnesota later this year.

Oklahoma National Guard Spc. David Jeffrey, a member of Headquarters Troop, 1st Squadron, 180th Cavalry Regiment, won the junior enlisted title of Best Warrior at the 20th annual Best Warrior Competition at Camp Gruber, Oklahoma, March 3-6. Jeffrey was one of 21 competitors who battled it out in a series of physically and mentally demanding challenges for a chance to represent their command in the regional version of the competition.

“Sure, it’s a competition, but it’s not just all about you. It’s teamwork,” said Jeffrey, who was born in Costa Rica. “Start together, finish together.”

Sgt. Maj. John Hernandez, senior enlisted leader, Oklahoma Army National Guard, defined a warrior as a Soldier who is passionate and strives to achieve more, no matter the subject. 

“Somebody that doesn’t have any quit,” Jeffrey said. “Even when you feel like things are hard, you drive on.”

Staff Sgt. Spencer Grayson, a member of Headquarters Company, 700th Support Battalion, earned the title of Best Warrior of the NCOs competing. Grayson and Jefferey will move on to the regional Best Warrior Competition in May.

In Tennessee, the competition lasted six days Feb. 22-27 and included representatives from the Bulgarian Armed Forces — Tennessee’s longtime partner in the National Guard Bureau State Partnership Program. The program allows states to train alongside allied countries while building relations and enhancing cohesion between allied military forces.

Nine Soldiers, two Airmen and two members of the Bulgarian Armed Forces competed to earn the title Soldier of the Year or Noncommissioned Officer of the Year. All Soldiers and Airmen competing represented one of Tennessee’s five major Army commands or three Air Guard Wings.

“I am proud to be part of this competition and grateful for the opportunity to train alongside my counterparts here in Tennessee,” said competitor Sgt. Stoyan Ivanov, a squad leader with the Bulgarian 61st Mechanized Brigade. “It is important for our militaries to train together and learn from one another.”

Spc. Grayson Vaughn, with the 252nd Military Police Company, won Tennessee Soldier of the Year, and Sgt. Zachary Kleinfelder, with the 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment, won Noncommissioned Officer of the Year.

“This was a great competition,” said Vaughn. “This was a whole week set aside for some pretty intense training. I can walk away knowing that I am a better Soldier now than I was a week ago, and I look forward to representing Tennessee at the regional competition.”

“We had a great turnout this year, with incredibly talented enlisted leaders from across the state,” said state Command Sgt. Maj. James Crockett. “It is always great when we can combine skill sets from our Army and Air Guardsmen in joint training events like this.”

Winners from surrounding states will compete for the regional title at Camp Blanding, Florida. Regional winners from across the nation will advance to compete at the National Guard Best Warrior competition this summer. 

Contributing to this story: Spc. Danielle Rayon, Oklahoma National Guard; Staff Sgt. Tackora Farrington, Indiana National Guard Public Affairs; Tennessee Department of Military; Sgt. 1st Class Edwin Basa, 9th Mission Support Command