CAMP SMITH TRAINING SITE -- A land navigation course which kicked off in the pre-dawn darkness, and more smoke and explosions during the stress shoot event were among the challenges facing nine New York Army National Guard Soldiers competing in the state's Best Warrior Competition here April 20-24.
"This year our goal was to add realism to the event," said Master Sgt.
Jeffery Colling, the Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge of the event. "We wanted the Soldiers to feel a real sense of competition from task-to-task and day-to-day."
"The first day is a real butt-kicker," said New York State Command Sgt. Major David Piwowarski." We kick-off at 0500 and end at 1930."
The goal, Piwowarski said, is to live up to that section of the Army creed that says: "I am an American Soldier, I will never quit."
"I am happy to say that none of these Soldiers quit," Piwowarski added.
At the end of the four days Specialist Qian Han, a female Soldier from the 1156th Engineer Co. and Staff Sgt. Garrett Cummings, from the 106th Regional Training Institute, were the top enlisted Soldier and top NCO, respectively.
Colling said that the added realism and heightened levels of competition will not only benefit the Soldiers, but also their units when they return.
"Some National Guard units only get this level of training and exposure to these tasks during their two-week Annual Training periods," Colling said.
"Now these Soldiers can share their knowledge and experience with their units throughout the year."
The Soldiers competing to be the best junior enlisted Soldier and NCO in the New York Army National Guard also had a chance to earn the German Military Proficiency Badge. This is the second year that the two events have been run together.
The changes were made based on feedback from competitors in the past, Colling said. Some of the most notable changes were the added artillery simulators, smoke grenades, and live fire with a 249B Squad Assault Weapon during the stress shoot event.
The stress shoot incorporates marksmanship with battlefield tasks like dragging a casualty, carrying water jugs, firing the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon, and engaging a target with the M9 pistol while wearing a protective mask.
"The explosions and smoke made it very challenging," said Staff Sgt. Artem Feldman, a competitor from the 1st Battalion 258th Field Artillery. "This event and the competition has been a great experience so far."
The Best Warrior competition is designed to challenge Soldiers physically and mentally, Piwowarski said.
Physical challenges included a 12 kilometer road march with a 35 pound pack, a 1000 meter run, and a shuttle run. Mental challenges included Soldier tasks, an appearance before an NCO board, and written knowledge tests.
Sometimes the tests were hard to see, Piwowarski said.
In one task the Soldiers were issued a SINCGARS radio to use to send and receive a message. The serial number of the radio issued was different than the serial number on the hand receipt, he said. The idea was to see if the Soldiers checked the hand receipt against the radio.
Nobody did, he said.
The German Proficiency Badge is a military decoration of the Bundeswehr, the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Germany, which is awarded in gold, silver or bronze and is comprised of eight physically demanding events.
Three events mirror the German army's standard physical fitness test with increased qualification standards including 11 ten meter sprints, a timed flexed arm hang, and a 1000 meter run. The remaining five events-- a 100 meter swim in uniform, first aid, Nuclear Biological Chemical, pistol qualifications and a weighted road march -- are designed to test the Soldier's military skills and training.
This year four of the nine competitors were women.
"We've seen more and more females competing," said Sgt 1st Class James Shear, Colling's assistant. "This is great not only for the competition but for the National Guard as well."
The top two New York Soldiers will compete for the Northeast Region Best Warrior titles at the Connecticut National Guard's Camp Niantic next week.
Soldiers who win there will compete against other Army Guard Soldiers to decide who will ultimately compete against representatives of the Active Army and the United States Army Reserve.