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2014 Best Warrior Competition 
Sgt. Kyle S. Merrill and Spc. Ryan S. Oliver 
JOINT BASE CAPE COD, Mass. – Sgt. Kyle S. Merrill, A Company, 1st Battalion 181st Infantry Regiment, and Spc. Ryan S. Oliver, D Company, 223rd Military Intelligence Battalion, are the Massachusetts Army National Guard Non-commissioned Officer and Soldier Best Warriors of 2014. The 2014 Best Warrior Competition was held on Camp Edwards, April 4-6, 2014. The winners will now compete in the Regional Best Warrior Competition, featuring Soldiers from New England, New York and New Jersey. U.S. Army National Guard photo by Maj. Glen Kernusky, Massachusetts National Guard Public Affairs/Released)
Story by Maj. Glen Kernusky, Massachusetts National Guard Public Affairs  

– The Massachusetts National Guard’s 2014 Best Warrior Competition to determine the state’s Noncommissioned Officer and Soldier of the Year was held from April 4-6, 2014 on Camp Edwards. Twenty-one Soldiers and Airmen competed in this rigorous joint service contest.  Best Warrior covers a number of events and tests the competitors’ warrior skills, both physical and mental.

The three day competition started early Friday morning with an Army physical fitness test, consisting of push-ups, sit-ups and a two-mile run, to assess the Soldiers’ fitness readiness. The competitors were then issued M16 rifles and brought to the rifle range to first zero and then qualify on their rifle marksmanship.

“The competition is a great opportunity to meet the best that the Massachusetts National Guard has to offer, but more importantly, it is an opportunity to see them in action,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Carlos RamosRivera, state command sergeant major, Massachusetts National Guard.

The participants were separated into two categories on Saturday; Non-Commissioned Officers and Soldiers. Half the group started with an oral examination in front of a board of hand-picked senior NCO’s, as well as a written exam. The other half was conveyed to the field to demonstrate their knowledge of select warrior training tasks and to complete the land navigation course.

Later that evening, the competitors participated in the Stress Shoot, a “live-fire” tactical assault on a fixed objective. The competitors were required to clear a multi-room structure and rescue/recover a friendly service member while identifying and engaging hostile threats. Friendly and hostile personnel were intermixed, so that the warrior navigating the course had to be very careful not to shoot the wrong target and lose points. Simulated small arms and heavy machine gun fire, improvised explosions and loud cultural music added to the confusion, making this a very challenging event.

The third and final day began with the competitors participating in a 12-mile road march with weapon, helmet, web-gear and a rucksack containing specified items. The event began early in the morning in total darkness, but finished after dawn.

“All parts of the competition are important, but there are some that I like to emphasize,” said RamosRivera. “The ruck march was probably the single most physically challenging event in this year's competition,” he said.

The Adjutant General of the Massachusetts National Guard, Maj. Gen. L. Scott Rice was on hand to congratulate the competitors as they crossed the finish line, as was RamosRivera. Many other Guardsmen, officers, NCOs, Soldiers and Airmen from around the state crowded the finish line, cheering for each warrior as they crossed.

“The course has some elevation changes that can be real tough for those who are not prepared, but I was pleased to see that every single competitor not only completed the course, but did so within the allotted time,” said RamosRivera.

The Massachusetts Best Warrior awards ceremony was held at the Yankee Division Memorial behind the newly renovated Camp Edwards Headquarters building, Building #102. Spc. Ryan S. Oliver, D Company, 223rd Military Intelligence, 151st Regional Support Group, took the enlisted Best Warrior top honors and Sgt. Kyle S. Merrill from A Company, 1st Battalion 181st Infantry Regiment won in the NCO category.

“The Massachusetts National Guard Best Warrior Competition showcases our most dedicated Soldiers and Airmen; true Patriots, who not only stand ready to answer the call, but also demonstrate the dedication, devotion and discipline to achieve far more than what is expected,” said RamosRivera

Sgt. Merrill and Spc. Oliver will go on to compete against the Best Warrior candidates from other states from the northeast in the Region I Best Warrior competition.

More photos on Flickr