GUAM – Seven states and the territory of Guam sent their strongest, fittest and most capable Soldiers to compete in the Region VII Best Warrior Competition on Guam, May 23-26. The competition crowned a new Soldier of the Year and Noncommissioned Officer of the Year for the region.
Utah Army National Guard Cpl. Spencer Fayles, with the 144th Area Support Medical Company, placed first in the Soldier-of-the-Year category.
“I’ve been surrounded by people better than me all the way leading up to this, who trained me and helped me and put a lot of effort into me,” Fayles said. “Master Sgt. Baker, Staff Sgt. White, they were there with me and helped me every step of the way. I wouldn’t be here without them.”
Participants from the National Guard in Arizona, California, Colorado, Guam, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah competed in many activities, testing key skills, proficiencies and physical fitness.
Soldiers began with the Army Combat Fitness Test and then tackled a grueling obstacle course and stress-shoot lanes in hot, humid weather.
“Through all of those events, it was obvious that our competitors had done a significant amount of preparation and were ready for the challenges that the rest of the week was going to present,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Spencer Nielsen, senior enlisted leader, Utah National Guard.
“Although I was obviously pulling for the Utah Army National Guard competitors, something that I am always impressed by is the quality of the Soldiers and NCOs competing. Watching and participating in the Best Warrior competitions is always inspiring and humbling to me.”
On the second day, the competitors wielded a map and compass to complete a four-hour land-navigation course. Next, they showcased their knowledge of weapon systems, radio communication, and combat medical response during the eight-station Army Warrior Tasks event.
The competitors had limited time to clear, disassemble and reassemble weapons such as the M4 carbine, M249 squad automatic weapon, M240B medium machine gun, and Mark 19 grenade machine gun.
Indoors on the third day, each Soldier and NCO was graded on proper uniform wear, composure under pressure in front of a command sergeants major board, and a 500-word essay.
Day Four brought the culminating mystery event.
Many people don’t realize that Guam is home to the tallest mountain on Earth — including below sea level —because the 1,332-foot Mount Lamlam extends down the Mariana Trench.
For the pinnacle event, the competitors hiked to the top of Mount Lamlam. The nearly 10-mile event started with a two-mile swim from Coco’s Island to the main island, immediately followed by a six-mile uphill ruck march.
“It was challenging. It was awesome,” Fayles said. “This one from the island was tough and then followed by that ruck in this heat. Super challenging.”
Challenging as it was, both Utah Soldiers conquered it all, ultimately earning the respect of the staff and every competitor.
Nielsen liked what he saw in the up-and-coming generation of warriors.
“The takeaway I always have is that the future of the Army is in good hands, and the next generation of senior leaders are competent, motivated, and professional,” he said.
Fayles moves on to the national competition in Tennessee in July.