FORT BENNING GA- Some of the Army's finest noncommissioned officers and Soldiers came to Fort Benning to compete for the title of Best Warrior during the third annual National Guard Best Warrior Competition Aug. 1-4.

The competition tested participants on a wide variety of Soldier tasks in a nearly nonstop barrage of events. They zeroed and sighted weapons, went on a 12-mile ruck march, completed first-aid tasks, took the Army Physical Fitness Test and Combat Water Survival Test, completed a land navigation course and participated in combatives. The competition also included a written exam, and essay writing and uniform inspection tests.

The 14 competitors are the National Guard's Regional NCOs and Soldiers of the Year. The top two winners will represent the National Guard at the Armywide competition in September.

Running on about eight hours of sleep over three days, the competitors tackled some of their last physical challenges at Booker Range the morning of Aug. 3 - a combat warrior skills test that included engaging targets in an urban environment, throwing hand grenades and transporting casualties.

"My feet are really beat up and my legs are really sore, but I'm glad I'm doing it," said SPC Jeffrey Deslauriers, 3rd Battalion, 172nd Infantry Regiment, Vermont National Guard.

Deslauriers, who has served four years in the Army, said even if he didn't win, he would be glad to have gained valuable training.

"A lot of this stuff I haven't touched since basic training," he said. "It will help me out."
SGT Danny Boone, 150th Engineer Company, Delaware National Guard, said competing was an honor.
"The caliber of competitors here is incredible," he said. "Everybody here is just pushing their body and mind beyond their limits, and everybody has done a great job so far. Despite various injuries and aches and pains, everybody has still finished the events."

Boone said he found the 12-mile ruck march to be the hardest event to that point.

"We had so many events the day before (the march) that I was really fatigued," he said. "Once your body starts wearing down, it weighs heavily on your mind and it's easy to say, 'I've had enough.' Keeping my mind (sharp) so my body could hold up was definitely a challenge."

Mental toughness was a major factor in the competition, said CPT Brian Deaton, officer in charge of the Best Warrior Competition, and commander of A Company, Warrior Training Center.

"They have to be mentally tough to complete the physical tasks," Deaton said. "The body will go far beyond what the mind thinks it will. If you have strong mental fortitude, you're going to be able to push your body to its limits."

While participants came from across the country to compete, one NCO traveled much farther than his fellow competitors. SGT Vince Bowles, 1st Battalion, 121st Infantry Regiment, Georgia National Guard, is three months into a nine-month deployment to Afghanistan. Back in his home state for the competition and two weeks of leave, Bowles said he was eager to rejoin his buddies in theater.

"It's good to be home, but at the same time I'm ready to go back because my whole platoon is there," he said. "I'd like to get back as soon as I can, which won't be too long."

Bowles credited his battalion and brigade sergeants major with helping him get clearance to return to the U.S. for the competition, which he called "a smoker."

"The competition is much tougher here than at the state and regional levels," he said. "At those levels we had maybe three people in serious competition for the top slots, but here everybody is good. When I came down here, my goal was to beat everybody, but now I'm just looking to do well and to finish (knowing) I gave it my best."

CSM Victor Angry, command sergeant major of the Army National Guard, attended the event for the first time.
"I'm very impressed," he said. "This is where the rubber meets the road. Watching them do this, it's just pure courage."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16