Maryland, Virginia Guardsmen Are Regional Best Warriors

By Maj. Erica Mitchell, 29th Mobile Public Affairs DetachmentMay 13, 2024

Spc. Carter Cooper of the Virginia National Guard and Staff Sgt. Alexander Wilkinson-Johnson of the Maryland National Guard were named the National Guard Bureau’s Region Il Best Warriors for 2024 in the Soldier of the Year and Noncommissioned Officer categories at Aberdeen Proving Ground-Edgewood Arsenal, Maryland, May 10, 2024. (Maryland Army National Guard graphic by Sgt. Kimberley Glazier)
Spc. Carter Cooper of the Virginia National Guard and Staff Sgt. Alexander Wilkinson-Johnson of the Maryland National Guard were named the National Guard Bureau’s Region Il Best Warriors for 2024 in the Soldier of the Year and Noncommissioned Officer categories at Aberdeen Proving Ground-Edgewood Arsenal, Maryland, May 10, 2024. (Maryland Army National Guard graphic by Sgt. Kimberley Glazier) (Photo Credit: Sgt. Kimberley Glazier) VIEW ORIGINAL

EDGEWOOD, Md. – After four days of competition, Spc. Carter Cooper and Staff Sgt. Alexander Wilkinson-Johnson were named the National Guard Bureau’s Region II Best Warriors for 2024 in the Soldier of the Year and Noncommissioned Officer categories May 10.

Cooper, an infantryman in the Virginia Army National Guard, and Wilkinson-Johnson, an intelligence analyst in the Maryland Army National Guard, will advance to the National Best Warrior Competition in Vermont this summer.

"This entire competition is what we do. It is what makes a Soldier a Soldier," said Wilkinson-Johnson. "Getting out there shooting, moving and communicating is the baseline of what we are as Soldiers.”

Competitors were pushed to their limits and graded across multiple disciplines, including physical fitness, a combat water survival test, an obstacle course, marksmanship, night-to-day land navigation, an 18.6-mile ruck march and military knowledge. Many of the activities simulated stressors Soldiers could face under combat conditions.

"Being a warrior to me means doing what is right when no one is looking and being willing to do and try your best within everything you do,” said Cooper. “I joined this competition because I wanted to display the Soldier that I knew I was and this was a perfect opportunity for me to display that.”

This year's competition at Aberdeen Proving Ground-Edgewood Arsenal was hosted by the Maryland Army National Guard. The 10 competitors represented their home states of Maryland, Washington, the District of Columbia, Virginia, West Virginia, Delaware and Pennsylvania.

“The best thing about the Best Warrior Competition is that we will all play for the same team,” said Maj. Gen. Janeen L. Birckhead, the adjutant general for Maryland. “Each Soldier wants to win and represent their state at the national level, but they all know that they will serve together if called for natural disasters or overseas deployments. The camaraderie and confidence built during this difficult and grueling competition makes us all stronger and more resilient for the next challenge the National Guard will face.”

The U.S. Army's Best Warrior Competition, established in the early 2000s, is an annual event to identify the Army's top Soldiers and NCOs through rigorous physical and mental challenges. Reflecting the Army's commitment to excellence, the competition has evolved from localized contests to an Army-wide event, emphasizing leadership, tactical proficiency and resilience.

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