One hand on top of a four-foot wall, the other securely on his weapon, a Soldier jumps over the barrier, then immediately drops into a low crawl on the other side. Face in the dirt, the Soldier swiftly maneuvers under fake barbed wire before coming up to another wall. He does not stop. Negotiating the next few obstacles brings him to his last task - it's time to shoot. With a racing heart, he lines up his weapon's site posts and aims at his target. One steadying breath and the soldier squeezes the trigger.

This is a competition for New Hampshire's granite-made warriors.

Twenty-three contenders were evaluated during the 2018 Best Warrior Competition at the Regional Training Institute in Center Strafford, NH, April 13-15. This included an Army physical fitness test, a land navigation test, weapons qualification and stress shoot, first aid and care under fire, tactical communications, a ruck march, and other military tasks.

This competition integrated 21 of New Hampshire's finest guardsmen -- 19 Soldiers and two Airmen --and two Canadian troops from the 5th Canadian Division.

The annual three-day event concluded with a timed 12-mile ruck march along the state coastline, ending in Fort Constitution, New Castle, where the winners were announced.

Sgt. Zachary Maynard, a member of the 160th Engineers, won NCO of the Year and Spc. Nicholas Rossetti, a member of the 39th Army Band, won Soldier of the Year.

"There was nothing I wanted more than to represent the band and bring home the gold for them," Rossetti said. "I couldn't be more happy and more proud to be in this uniform."

Along with carrying 35-pound rucksacks and replica M-16s, the weather became an obstacle of its own during the ruck march. The competitors hiked through dangerous winds, ice, and sleet as the waves crashed along the rocky shore nearby.

"I was having a great time," Maynard said, "and the weather actually kept me going so I was pretty motivated."

One of the first people to finish the ruck march was Sgt. Liam Fraser of the Cape Breton Highlanders from Nova Scotia. He placed third.

"You just have to be confident in yourself and have a good time," he said.
Staff Sgt. Johnathan Pack of the 157th Civil Engineering Squadron took first in the ruck march and Canada's other competitor, Cpl. Ryan Jackson, placed second.

This is the first year troops from Canada competed in the BWC, an extension of the military training partnership it shares with the NHNG.

Throughout the BWC each task required the competitor to show that they have mastery of the skills of a combat ready troop.

"Prepare as much as you can, but come to the competition with an open mind," said Staff Sgt. John Nedeau of the NHARNG Recruiting and Retention Battalion and one a competitor. "You'll have some bad events and some events that you're good at. You have to erase your last event and just move on to the next one."

After winning Soldier of the Year, Rossetti offered some advice to future competitors.
"Study, work hard for it, and make sure you have a good sponsor," he said. "Be as good of a soldier as you can be."