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Mass. Soldier competes in National 2012 Best Warrior Competition 
By Army Master Sgt. Don Veitch, Massachusetts National Guard Public Affairs 
FORT BENNING, Ga. – A Massachusetts National Guard Soldier was among the 14 competitors taking part in the National Guard Bureau’s 2012 Best Warrior Competition held here, July 31 through Aug 2, 2012.

Sgt. 1st Class Vanessa Urban, a senior human resources noncommissioned officer with Joint Forces Headquarters, had previously won the State and Region 1 competitions to earn the honor of being the lone representative from Massachusetts in the national competition.

Urban’s success is no mystery to those having watched her compete; it comes down to hard work and her willingness to put her goals first.

“Sergeant Urban takes on challenges with commitment, tenacity and the desire to be her best,” said Sgt.1st Class Felicia Pinckney, executive noncommissioned officer to the sixth command sergeant major of the Massachusetts Army National Guard. “She puts her head down and she goes for it. She isn't afraid of the fight or the pain.”

Pinckney, who oversees the state competition, said Urban also understood her strengths and limitations and has looked for the support of those more knowledgeable or stronger in various areas and sought them out for assistance in preparing for the events.

The annual competition pits the seven regional winners from the Soldier and NCO categories against their peers during a grueling multi-day event designed to challenge their mental and physical abilities.

“My Goal was to represent Region One and Massachusetts to the best of my abilities,” said Urban.  

The events include an army physical fitness test, weapons qualification, a stress shoot, a road march, an urban operations course, obstacle course, a mystery event and more.

“I was exhausted before even starting the obstacle course,” said Urban. “I just wanted to show everyone that I had the motivation and the heart to get past being so tired.”

Urban demonstrated this determination during ‘The Weaver’ obstacle when she lost control and slipped. The rules allow for a contestant to skip past an obstacle and incur a five-minute penalty once an attempt had been made and failed. Urban said she thought about going past ‘The Weaver’ because it would probably take longer than the cost of the penalty to finish.

“It was something about the accomplishment of finishing ‘The Weaver’ that was more important to me than the points,” said Urban. “I went around and said,’ I can do this’ and the second time around I was okay.”

Arguably the most difficult event was the mystery event. This event was actually a series of events which taxed the Soldiers to the limits of their abilities. The event started with the competitors having to descend from a 90-foot rappel tower. The tower was immediately followed by a casualty evacuation drill requiring a 150-pound dummy be hoisted up a steep wall and then lowered over the matching opposite side. Next up is assemble a radio and transmit message but only after a quarter-mile run in 90 degree heat and combat boots to the event station. From there each competitor must complete six more events that culminate with a six-foot wall separating them from the finish line and the conclusion of the competition.

Urban said the mystery event was among the hardest because no one knew what to expect or to prepare for and once she climbed over the last wall and finished it seemed as if the 50-pound rucksack she felt she was carrying was lifted from her back.

“I had a big smile on my face, I knew it was over,” said Urban. “I did the best I could and I gave it everything I had.”

Despite pushing herself to the limit, Urban did not win and the title of NCO of the Year went to Sgt. Matthew Howard, Arkansas National guard.

Urban had this advice for those who will compete next year. “Try to keep a positive attitude,” said Urban.  “Don’t say ‘I could never do that.’ Put that out of your mind. Focus on I can, I can, I can.”