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Home : News : State Partnership Program
NEWS | March 8, 2023

Georgia National Guard Women Compete to be Best Warrior

By Maj. Bryant Wine, 124th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

FORT STEWART, Ga. – Eighteen National Guardsmen compete in the Georgia Army National Guard 2023 Best Warrior Competition March 5-10 to determine the state’s best Soldier and noncommissioned officer.

This year’s competition, coinciding with International Women’s Day, includes two women: Spc. Mary Ruiz and Spc. Victoria McDuffie. 

“I don’t see myself as any different from anyone because we’re all Soldiers,” said Ruiz, an aviation operations specialist representing the 78th Aviation Troop Command. “This competition has shown we can push ourselves more than we think we can and to be the best Soldiers in the Georgia National Guard.”

Ruiz immigrated to the United States from Mexico as a child and wants to be a pilot. She is assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st General Support Aviation Battalion, 171st Aviation Regiment.

In between monthly drills, Ruiz is a student at Georgia State University in Atlanta. 

McDuffie is also a full-time student, majoring in biology at Kennesaw State University and serving as a cadet in the Reserve Officer Training Corps program.

McDuffie chose her military occupation as a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear specialist to complement her college studies. She dreams of commissioning as a chemical officer or working for the Federal Emergency Management Agency or both — a realistic possibility for National Guard Citizen-Soldiers.

McDuffie’s leadership mentoring her at the competition praised her performance. McDuffie said she could not be successful without their support, including her platoon sergeant, who happens to be a woman.

“Me being here paves the way for more women to compete in the future,” said McDuffie, assigned to the 138th Chemical Company, 265th Chemical Battalion, 201st Regional Support Group. “The women that came before me and support me now make me more confident to come here, compete, and hopefully win.”

Ruiz, McDuffie, and all Soldiers in the Georgia Army National Guard don’t have to look far to find prominent female leaders within their ranks, including right here at the best warrior competition.

Master Sgt. Megan Goodman, who is promotable to sergeant major, oversees support staff and operations for this year’s competition and is the full-time operations sergeant major for the 78th Troop Command.

Goodman has multiple occupations in military intelligence, so she has a keen sense of perspective among all the competitors, including Ruiz and McDuffie. And she likes what she sees.

“We planned this year’s competition to be tougher than past, and the competitors have risen to the challenge,” Goodman said. “Knowing these are the future leaders of the Georgia Guard, I’m confident we’re going to be in good hands.”