FORT DRUM N.Y. -- Physical fitness, land navigation skills, military bearing, weapons knowledge and the ability to think under pressure all came into play Feb. 10-12 as 12 Soldiers from the New York Army National Guard's 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team vied to be the best in the brigade.
Each of the brigade's six battalions sent two finalists to compete in the three-day competition. One Soldier competed in the junior enlisted category for Soldiers in the rank of specialist and below and one competed in the noncommissioned officer category for sergeants to sergeants first class.
Just making it to the brigade-level competition is an accomplishment in itself, said 27th Infantry Brigade Sgt. Major Thomas Ciampolillo. A Soldier has to be selected first by their company and then compete and win their respective battalion best warrior competition, he said.
Selected as the best in the brigade were Cpl. Mitchell Cooper, an infantryman assigned to Delta Company, 2nd Battalion, 108th Infantry Regiment from Camillus, N.Y., and Sgt. Mitchell Stogel, from White Plains, N.Y., an infantryman assigned to the Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 69th Infantry Regiment.
During the competition the soldiering skills of each contestant were put to the test.
The first hurdle was a formal military board comprised of all the 27th IBCT battalion command sergeants major and presided over by Ciampolillo.
During the board the Soldiers were tested on their knowledge of Army policies, regulations, and history.
"The hardest part of the competition was the board and the written test," Cooper said, "It's tough because there's no way to compare yourself to the other contestants, " he added.
Following the board, the Soldiers participated in a hands-on weapons evaluation.
For the evaluation each Soldier had to disassemble and reassemble an M4 carbine, M9 pistol, M2A1 .50 caliber machine gun, M249 squad automatic weapon and an M240B machine gun. Each participant was also quizzed on the different weapon systems' ammunition requirements and capabilities.
After the weapons portion of the competition, armed with only a compass, protractor and map, the Soldiers put their orienteering skills to the test by completing a land navigation course.
Though each of the events were far from easy, the most strenuous part of the competition was the eight-mile ruck march. With a 35-pound rucksack on their backs, each of the contestants was up before daybreak to complete the competition's final event.
After completing all of the above events as well as the Army Physical Fitness Test and written exam, the two winners were selected and announced.
Cooper recommended that any Soldier considering next year's competition should go for it.
"I would encourage all lower enlisted to compete in this competition," Cooper said. "You gain a wealth of knowledge and it's an amazing opportunity to better yourself."
Cooper and Stogel will represent the 27th IBCT as they advance to the statewide competition scheduled for early March where they will compete against Soldiers representing the 53rd Troop Command, Joint Force Headquarters, and the 42nd Infantry Division.
The winners of that competition face off against the best National Guard Soldiers and NCOs from other northeast states in a bid to be the best in the Army National Guard and the Army.