GUILDERLAND, NY – New York Army National Guard Soldiers from the 42nd Expeditionary Combat Aviation Brigade competed in a three-day Best Warrior Competition in Guilderland Range, that included a simulated artillery attack alongside the usual military skills tests.
Sergeant Jimmy Goris and Specialist Ilies Benaiche were named the winners of the brigade’s competition at the Noncommissioned Officer and Soldier categories, respectively, and will represent the unit at the state level later in the year.
Goris, of Brooklyn, is assigned to Charlie Company, 642nd Aviation Support Battalion as a Signal Support System Specialist and is a member of Joint Task Force Empire Shield during the week.
Goris said he appreciated the opportunity to experience and learn from the competition.
“All of the lanes were set up with the real world in mind, and all of the NCO’s running them are subject matter experts,” Goris said.
“I like that they put so much thought into organizing the competition,” he added.
Benaiche, from Albany, is assigned to Bravo Company, 642nd Aviation Support Battalion as an Aircraft Pneudraulics Repairer, and has been on active-duty orders in order to support the state’s COVID response.
Benaiche says that preparation was key to performing well in the competition.
“We had a battalion level competition, ruck marches, mock boards, weapons training, and spent a lot of time studying and working out,” Benaiche said.
The competition was comprised of multiple events, including an obstacle course, 12-mile ruck march, clearing a weapon malfunction, a stress shoot with an M-4 Carbine, reacting to indirect fire and a chemical attack, and performing a nine-line MEDEVAC request with a radio.
Day one consisted of briefings and an obstacle course, which required teamwork as they had to not only get themselves through the course but also all their gear, including their rucksacks.
Before dawn the next morning, the Soldiers began a 12-mile ruck march, which tested their physical endurance and mental toughness, as they marched over uneven terrain with full combat gear, a rifle, and a rucksack.
Shortly after completing the march, the Soldiers sprinted over 200 yards, and immediately had to clear a misfeeding M-4 Carbine while being timed and evaluated. They then moved directly into a range where they had to shoot a series of targets using simulation rounds.
Immediately following that, they ran to a station with SINCGAR radios where they had input the correct settings and conduct a nine-line MEDEVAC request.
From there, they sprinted to the next station where they had to demonstrate their ability to react to indirect fire and a chemical attack. Artillery simulators were used for the indirect fire, and red smoke grenades were used for the chemical attack.
During the lane, the Soldiers were hit with both attacks at once, and had to don their protective masks and seek cover from the indirect fire and simulate moving a small team away from the danger area.
Sergeant First Class Ronald Thomas, who oversaw the lane, said it was intentionally chaotic.
“What I wanted to see was their leadership qualities emerge in midst of a stressful situation. I wanted them to keep their cool and get their team to safety,” Thomas said.
Upon doing this, they then had to simulate dragging a casualty on a sled away from the attack.
Finally, they had to sprint from there to another stress shoot, to demonstrate their ability to accurately and safely use their weapons after being mentally and physically drained from the previous events.
Late that night, there was a surprise “mystery event”, in which an artillery simulation went off while the Soldiers were in their tents sleeping. They had to immediately react, and upon exiting their tents they found three casualties with simulated wounds and had to triage and treat them accordingly.
The following day, the competition culminated in a written test and a board consisting of the senior Noncommissioned Officers of the brigade, in which they were graded based on their appearance, military bearing, and their ability to answer a series of questions based on Army doctrine, current events, tactics, and more.
According to Sergeant First Class Michael Trask, the Noncommissioned Officer in charge of the competition, the overall goal of the event was to make a well rounded and comprehensive test of basic skills that every Soldier should have.
“The participants are tested by their ability to encompass the total Soldier concept. Every Soldier should have basic skills, and that’s what this is about, going back to the basics,” Trask said.
Unfortunately, during the ruck march, Specialist Kayla Kilventon, of Headquarters Company, 42nd Expeditionary Combat Aviation Brigade, sustained an injury to her ankle, which resulted in her withdrawal from the competition.