NEWTON FALLS, OHIO – Soldiers from across the Midwest and from Hungary and the Republic of Serbia tested their mental and physical fortitude in the five-day regional Best Warrior Competition at Camp James A. Garfield Joint Military Training Center May 3-7.
“These types of events improve morale by building on friendships and camaraderie,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Sheldon Chambliss, state command sergeant major, Ohio Army National Guard. “They met four days ago, and we know they are building lasting relationships. I have seen it through this spirited competition.”
Fourteen enlisted and noncommissioned officers from Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin competed to be the Best Warrior Soldier and NCO of the Year, testing their mental and physical fortitude in rigorous training events.
“Competition makes us better. Competition is what pushes us to find our human limits,” said Maj. Gen. John C. Harris, Ohio adjutant general. “Our nation needs us, and quite frankly, the world needs this.”
Staff Sgt. Leo Kerfeld, infantryman, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, Minnesota Army National Guard, took home the NCO title. Spc. John Shields, combat medic specialist, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, Iowa Army National Guard, won the enlisted title.
Kerfeld said his family was his motivation.
“I have two little boys and it’s important to me to be the best father I can be,” said Kerfeld. “This just shows my boys that this is the norm. Hopefully, they see that and pick up on it, too.”
Each competitor worked through the Army Combat Fitness Test, water survival, a 12-mile ruck march, land navigation and other events. During the Expert Physical Fitness Assessment, Soldiers completed a 1-mile run, 30 dead-stop hand-release push-ups and a 100-meter sprint. They immediately lifted 16 sandbags onto a 66-inch-tall platform, carried two 40-pound water cans 50 meters, and completed a 25-meter-high crawl and another 1-mile run.
“You have to come into this, even if it gets hard, with the mind to keep going,” said Shields. “If that means losing a little bit of sleep to study, it will only help.”
The 19 competitors included two Best Warrior winners from each of the seven states and five competitors from Hungary and the Republic of Serbia — partners with the Ohio National Guard in the Department of Defense National Guard Bureau State Partnership Program.
“This year, we are celebrating the 30th anniversary of the cooperation of Ohio state and Hungary,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Zoltan Kaszab, command senior enlisted leader, Hungarian Defence Forces.
Kaszab said he has enjoyed seeing the partnership evolve to a point where troops from both countries participate in each other’s events.
“I believe [in] interoperability,” Kaszab said. “It means we can work along with other nations ... but at least we can have a common ground, No. 1, the language, No. 2, knowing procedures. So if we can make the foundation here, we can work anywhere in the world.”
Winners of the regional competitions will represent the Army National Guard in the Department of the Army Best Warrior Competition in Anchorage, Alaska, later this year.