CAMP SWIFT, Texas - With flags in hand and supporters close by, 14 soldiers ran to the finish line to end the eight-mile road march. Army National Guardsmen from Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Nebraska, and Texas competed in this year’s NGB Region V Best Warrior competition held at Camp Swift near Bastrop, Texas, May 7 to 9, 2013.
The competitors consisted of the overall noncommissioned officer and junior enlisted winners from each state’s respective competitions. Texas Army National Guard Senior Enlisted Advisor, Command Sgt. Maj. Richard Milford, said these Soldiers are Regions V’s finest.
“The soldiers here have won home unit and state competitions, and separated themselves as the best of the best,” Milford said. “They have demonstrated not only that they are physically fit, but that they are proficient at crucial soldier skills.”
The competition at Camp Swift called for the soldiers to demonstrate their combat lifesaving, land navigation, marksmanship, and other warrior-tasks skills. Additionally, they had an appearance board, where they were tested on Army knowledge, and wrote and essay on how they, as a leader, can help prevent suicide.
Sgt. Steven Montoya from the 1st Battalion, 245th Aviation Regiment, Oklahoma Army National Guard, found the road march to be the most challenging.
“The road march was a killer,” Montoya said, “because we weren’t racing against time, rather each other’s abilities; which means we were running the entire way. We carried a 35 lb. pack for eight-miles after two days of constant, physical activity. It made us reach deep down inside and push ourselves.”
In spite of strong competition, the competitors realized that there was value in helping each other out. Staff Sgt. Dominic Gonzales from the 1st Battalion, 133rd Field Artillery Regiment, Texas Army National Guard, found this to be true when he and a fellow competitor pushed each other to finish the road march in first and second places.
“When I got to the four-mile marker I met up with Staff Sgt. Luke Katz from the Nebraska Army National Guard; from there, we ran all the way back together,” Gonzales said. “Whenever one of us would get tired, we’d stop and motivate each other to continue; when we were ready to go, we’d continue to push each other along. Even though he ended up beating me to the finish line, I’m glad I was able to there for him.”
According to Spc. Piero Lopez from the 39th Infantry Combat Team, Arkansas Army National Guard, teamwork at competitions like these bring soldiers closer together.
“At first you size each other up, because they’re your competitors,” Lopez said. “However, after you begin facing the same challenges you realize that these are your fellow soldiers, your brothers-in-arms. From these struggles and triumphs, you are able to develop great friendships and a foster that ‘esprit de corps’ that being in the Army is all about.”
At competition’s end, Lopez and Gonzales were voted overall junior enlisted and NCO winners, respectively. They will move forward to represent Region V at the NGB level Best Warrior Competition to be hosted by the Arkansas Army National Guard in July.