CAMP EDWARDS, Mass.
– Sweat pours down a Soldier’s face, turning onto the final quarter mile stretch. Blisters and a full rucksack make each step painful.
Regardless, the Soldier pushes through it all to a steady jog.
It’ll soon be over.
Now the crowd cheers. Some of them run with the Soldier who’s too focused to notice. The finish line is right there.
This year’s Best Warrior Competition, held here April 2 and 3, had nine competitors all striving to be the best Soldier and Noncommissioned Officer in the Massachusetts Army National Guard.
“They’re all winners,” said Staff Sgt. Wendy L. Burke, Training Sergeant, Training Support Center here. “It’s important that the Soldiers here deserve to be here. They constantly help each other out. It’s rare.”
The competitors must go through rigorous events including a physical fitness test, a written exam, land navigation, and warrior tasks and training, said Sgt. John T. Slager, Operation and Training NCO, Training Support Center here. They must also complete a mystery event, this year it was a stress shoot, and a 15 kilometer road march.
Friday at 7 a.m. the competitors are met with their first event, a PT test. From there they move to the ranges for around 1 p.m. to qualify. After that they are put through a stress shoot from 6 - 8 p.m.
The stress shoot was a lot of fun, said Sgt. Dave A. Whitaker, 1st Civil Support Team, another of the competitors.
Saturday starts at the obstacle course early in the morning. Next the Soldiers swap between Soldier and NCO of the year boards, and the land navigation course and warrior tasks and training.
The obstacle course was tough because it was timed and it was after another physically demanding test, said Sgt. Selwyn M. Eccles, 110th Maintenance, and a competitor in the event.
The last day, Sunday, includes a nine and a half mile road march that starts at 4:15 am. When the competitors finish this they’re done.
The event is held each year to find the Soldier and NCO of the year for the Massachusetts Army National Guard so they can be sent to further competitions, said Master Sgt. Michael J. Porazinski, Senior Management Analyst Joint Force Headquarters, who worked as Observer Controller and oversaw the event.
“Number one, the state needs to send a representative,” said Porazinski. “This is how you find out who you’re going to send.”
“The more challenging this is, the greater the success at a regional level,” said Sgt. First Class Daniel J. Silva, Training Support Center.
“The event represents what we have as Soldiers, these soldiers all come from many different units and MOS’s, but they’re Soldiers first,” said Silva. “This is a second profession for them and they treat it as such.”
The experience was great, said Spc. Daniel P. Barry, 181st Engineer Company (Vertical), and this year’s winner for Soldier of the Year. Barry said can’t wait to get back and train his Soldiers in the things he has learned during the weekend.
The competition is tight, said Sgt. Joshua M. McKenna, HHC 1/181 Infantry, 51st Troop Command, and the winner of NCO of the Year. He was happy and shocked because all of the competitors were good.
“As soon as I get Soldiers, I’m going to encourage they do this,” said Whitaker.
The training is outstanding, said Eccles. The competition creates a bench mark both physically and mentally for the Soldiers and NCOs.
“I love it because it’s realistic training,” said Eccles.
As soon as the competition is over for those doing the events the real work begins for the instructors, said Slager.
There is an after action review at the conclusion of an event, said Slager. The instructors start to go over what they will work on for the next year.
“How can we make it better,” said Slager. “We start by back planning, looking at how much time is spent on each event and when we need to be done.”
From there the instructors must plan every event, said Slager. Also, they need to find out what gear they need and what they have so that they might reach out to other units if they don’t have it.
The events have changed over the years, said Sgt. 1st Class John E. Kelley, an instructor, Training Support Center.
“We’ve added to it, but don’t make it harder,” said Kelly. “The tasks are the common soldiering skills that you should be working on anyway.”
“It’s only gotten better,” said Burke.
“The show that the instructor’s run is very tight,” said Porazinski.
“Every year, regardless of the conditions, the instructors show up with open arms,” said Slager.