CAMP EDWARDS, Mass.
– For the first time, the Massachusetts National Guard held a joint service competition to determine who are the state’s best warriors. Twenty two Soldiers and Airmen competed in the Massachusetts National Guard’s Best Warrior Competition from April 5th to 7th, here. Best Warrior covers a number of warrior training tasks and Soldiering skills.
The three-day competition kicked-off early Friday morning with an Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT), which assesses pushups, situps and two-mile run times. After the APFT the warriors took a written exam to gauge their basic and advanced military knowledge followed by a run through the Camp Edwards’ obstacle course.
“The event I enjoyed the most was definitely the obstacle course because I’m basically an overgrown kid,” said Sgt. Caroline Cole, the noncommissioned officer (NCO) competitor from the 215th Army Band. “They said here’s the weaver, it’s a really complicated obstacle that’s tough, and I just thought, playground!”
“I just went through with a smile,” said Cole. “The obstacle course was probably the most fun I had all weekend.”
Next the competitors were brought to the weapons range to qualify on the marksmanship portion of the event.
“So far I liked qualifying the best, I like shooting and I like being out on the range,” said Sgt. Joseph Morini, the NCO competitor from the 26th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade. “We were up early this morning. It’s all ‘Go! Go! Go!’ So everything goes pretty quickly, the day’s kind of fly by, and nothing drags on.”
Saturday the group of participants were separated into NCOs and Soldiers. While half the group started early with an examination board in front of the State Command Sergeant Major, the other started with a trip to the warrior training tasks lane, and a hike through the land navigation course.
“The hardest thing to overcome, for me, was probably the board, going in front of the State Command Sergeant Major, my Sergeant Major and the Chief from the Air Force,” said Morini. “It’s a little nerve-racking. Prepping for it, you don’t know what you’re going to be asked to do, that’s always intimidating.”
The event could not have been a success without the devotion and enthusiasm of the Camp Edwards Training Support Center.
“This is our fifth year that the training support center has worked this competition,” said Sgt. 1st Class Daniel J. Silva, Headquarters Camp Edwards Training Support Center. “We sleep less than the Soldiers do, but it’s a pleasure for the staff at the training support center.”
“We look forward to it every year,” said Silva. “With all the units here, it’s a lot of fun. It’s hard. It’s a lot of hours. But, that’s when the Soldiers do their best, when it’s just, go, go, go.”
Following a full day of practical tests and hiking through the thick growth of Camp Edwards’ back country, they were whisked away to the Military Operations in Urban Terrain site for a late night tactical test known as the “Stress shoot.”
Here the competitors were required to identify targets as either hostile or friendly, and then engage the threats. All while having simulated small arms, .50-caliber Browning machine gun and improvised explosive devices exploding all around them, all while enduring a windy, below-freezing Cape Cod night.
“The stress shoot is an utter surprise to them,” said Silva. “It is also a lot of fun. The competitors are told to push 110 percent all the way through to the end.”
Being kept up for almost a full day, they were allowed a couple hours of shuteye before their tired bodies were then delivered to a point and briefed on their final task; a foot march along the hill ridden dirt roads of Camp Edwards.
The finish line was populated with representatives from all the units competing such as the Adjutant General of the Massachusetts National Guard, the State Command Sergeant Major, and numerous other leaders from around the state, all of whom were cheering for each and every warrior to cross the finish line.
At the end of the day, when all scores were calculated, Air Force Staff Sgt. Ryan Morrisey of the 212th Engineer Installation, 102nd Intelligence Wing, Otis Air National Guard Base, was the Air Guard’s winner. Spc. Joshua Lashway, Company D 223rd Military Intelligence, 151st Regional Support Group, took the enlisted Best Warrior top honors and Staff Sgt. Kelley McHugh from the Massachusetts Army National Guard’s Recruiting and Retention Battalion won in the NCO category of the competition.
Staff Sgt. McHugh and Spc. Lashway will go on to compete against the best warrior candidates from other states from the northeast in the Region 1 Best Warrior Competition.