By Sgt. 1st Class Peter MorrisonMay 9, 2017
FORT BENNING, Ga. - A Scout Team with the Illinois Army National Guard's 2nd Squadron, 106th Cavalry Regiment took third place in the Gainey Cup Best Scout Competition on May 4.
The intense five-day competition tested 24 of the best teams from cavalry units around the world. The event featured teams from the U.S. Army, including three from the Army National Guard, as well as two teams from Canada, one from the United Kingdom, and one from the Netherlands.
The six-man team representing the Illinois Army Guard consisted of: 1st Lt. Robert Springer, Sgt. Zechariah Johnson, Sgt. Evan Westart, Spc. Daniel Delinski, Spc. Matthew Runyon and Pfc. Michael Cates.
The competition tested each team's knowledge and proficiency in fundamental cavalry scout tasks including area reconnaissance, medical skills, a foot march, physical fitness test, land navigation, live fire operations, and weapons knowledge and handling.
Johnson, the team leader from Illinois said they have been working toward the Gainey Cup Competition for years so being there meant a lot to them, as did proving that they belonged on the field.
In January, teams from throughout the Army National Guard went head-to-head to determine which teams would be chosen to represent the Guard in the competition. After a grueling evaluation of the best teams in the Army Guard, they narrowed the field down to teams from Illinois, West Virginia and Nevada.
For Army Guard teams, the path for competing began with an assessment by cadre from the Army National Guard Warrior Training Center at Fort Benning. Teams that made the cut then returned to the WTC for a month-long train-up prior to the competition.
"The guys who trained us were phenomenal," said Johnson. "They smoked us, they worked us six days a week, 12-hour days, but they taught us a lot leading up to the competition. We knew it was going to be a tough few days and the instructors told us, 'just get through it, don't be babies about it.' So, we tried to be tough about it. We didn't let any little mistakes get to us. We just shouldered down and got through it."
Named after retired Command Sgt. Maj. William J. Gainey, the first senior enlisted advisor to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Gainey Cup has been held every other year since 2013. After the five day competition of nearly 24-hour operations, the Guard teams performed well in a competitive field.
"I have a full-time job, I go to school full time and I am in the Guard part time, I want to show them, 'hey, I can do this too'. I think that's a motivating factor," said Johnson. "We are proud of how far we have come and we are confident in our ability to do what we do. 'There are people in the National Guard that can hold up to Big-Army level. That's one of the things we wanted to prove here."
The West Virginia Army Guard team placed eleventh and the Nevada Army Guard team followed right behind in 12th place.