Same but different: Texas Air and Army National Guard compete for 'Best Warrior'

Courtesy Story

Posted: Feb 2, 2015

BASTROP, Texas – This year’s 2015 Texas Military Forces Best Warrior Competition brought out 35 guardsmen from both the Texas Army and Air National Guard who competed here to determine who would be the best of the best Feb. 5-7.

“The Best Warrior Competition is a big deal for Texas and the Texas Military Forces,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Mark Weedon, TXMF senior enlisted adviser. "It is one of the biggest joint events we have involving actual soldiers and airmen. This event allows the soldier and airman to compete with each other in both physical and mental challenges.”

The competition demonstrated the knowledge and skills of the guardsmen in seven events, spanning three days. The first day started with an essay, testing their aptitude, writing abilities and critical thinking and how well the soldiers and the airmen express their thoughts. Following the writing skills, the competitors met with a panel of senior enlisted leaders who barraged them with a series of questions pertaining to their military tasks.

“We are from the same Texas Military Forces,” said Command Chief Master Sgt. Kevin O’Gorman, state command chief for the Texas Air National Guard. “When we deploy in a joint environment, we work together side-by-side and we need to foster that early on. This competition brings camaraderie and jointness, even though soldiers and airmen do things differently.”

Day two started with a twilight land-navigation course, starting at 5 a.m. and finishing after daybreak. Once again, the soldiers and airmen battle-tested their skills in using a map and compass to plot the points and discover hidden flags throughout the course. 

Shortly after completing land navigation, the competitors went to the weapons-qualification range, then on to the 11 Army warrior task lanes, where both Army and Air Force participants demonstrated their ability to disassemble and reassemble weapons ranging from a 9 mm pistol to an M2 machine gun, as well as testing in combat-first-aid techniques.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Steven Hein, 136th Security Forces Squadron, and member of the Richardson Police Department, finished first during the land navigation course, coming in at 1 hour and 29 minutes, finding three of four flags. 

“It’s been a privilege to come out here and contend with the best,” said Hein. “It’s definitely good to come out here to compete and learn from the other guys like the Army and other guys in the tactical control party.”

Many of the competitors felt that the first day of the competition was the most challenging and exhausting. It included the mile-long obstacle course, containing nine stations with rigorous calisthenics in between obstacles, a six-mile ruck march and finished with three mystery events. The total course spanned eight miles as each competitor attempted to conquer each event with a go or no-go while carrying a 35-pound ruck sack on their back.

“The BWC is tougher than all the races I’ve competed in,” said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Candice Wade, a veteran competitor in the Warrior Dash, Tough Mudder and Spartan Races, about the Best Warrior Competition. “The Best Warrior Competition is in a much higher level ... dealing with a land navigation course, eight types of weapons, combat casualty care, an obstacle course, ruck march and various physical events. I can say that this is absolutely the most difficult thing I’ve ever done.”

Among the spectators present were Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, the adjutant general for Texas, and Maj. Gen. Edmundo Villarroel Geissbuhler, Chilean army liaison officer, who were both here to observe the competing guardsmen.

“There are two competitions going on here,” said Nichols. “One is the competition between Army and Air Force. The other is between the soldiers so we can send forth the best soldier in a national competition and be the best in the U.S. Army. This is a big deal to us.”

Geissbuhler strolled though the courses, closely observing each station, cheering on the soldiers and airmen racing through the obstacles.

“We have a lot of contact with the Texas Military Forces, both in the Air Force and Army,” said Geissbuhler. “This state partnership began in 2008 and there are a lot of activities we do together. I received an invitation to come here today and I’m very glad to be here.”

Texas and Chile are part of the State Partnership Program, using military-to-military relationships between the U.S. and Chile to increase military capabilities and interoperability. 

When asked if the Chileans have this type of competition amongst their military forces, Geissbuhler said, “We do have this competition in Chile, it is part of our training. We have been approved to send four competitors here to the BWC next year and compete among the TXMF. We will be sending two soldiers and two airmen and hope to do well.”

By the end of the three-day event, the competitors seemed both mentally and physically exhausted. 

“I’m here to do my best, not just as a woman, but as a soldier,” said Sgt. Wendy Farris, 149th Aviation Battalion, one of the four female competitors. “This was really exciting. I’ve learned a lot and grown in the process. I’m devising my plan for next year’s competition.”

There were 22 Army and 13 Air Force competitors, coming from all parts of Texas. Most of the competing guardsmen were drill status guardsmen. They also serve Texas as police officers, firefighters, physical strength trainers and other professionals. 

The overall winners for the competition will be announced at an award ceremony April 11, 2015.

Sibling rivalry adds edge during Best Warrior Competition

Story by: Spc. Michael Giles

Posted: Feb 7, 2015

Sibling rivalry adds edge during Best Warrior Competition

Spc. Michael Giles
Tech. Sgt. Matthew Renteria and Senior Airman Michael Pineda listen to a brief before the obstacle course portion of the Texas Military Forces Best Warrior Competition at Camp Swift near Bastrop, Texas, Feb. 5, 2015. The event tests the mental and physical proficiencies of the participants through various challenges. Winners will continue to compete at a multi-state regional level. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Michael Giles/Released)

BASTROP, Texas - When the Texas Air National Guard first joined the Texas Military Forces Best Warrior Competition in 2013, then Air Force Staff Sgt. Matthew Rentería proclaimed that he would "win it all." He did not end up winning "it all" in 2013, but he pulled a close second in the noncommissioned officer division of the competition.

Matthew returned to compete in the 2015 Best Warrior Competition at Camp Swift, this time bringing a lifelong friend who helped him forge his competitive spirit, Senior Airman Michael Rentería.

The fraternal twins are well known as highly motivated, with an intense drive to surpass each other in all pursuits.

"They are both outstanding individuals," said Master Sgt. Justin Tassin, a Tactical Air Control Party supervisor for the brothers in the 147th Air Support Operations Squadron. "But when you put the two together, you can see the sibling rivalry, and it pushes them harder to perform."

Competition between the brothers covered all aspects of growing up.

"Everything we were doing, we were doing at the same time," Senior Airman Rentería said. "We competed in getting the girls, school and sports. It keeps us going. It keeps us battling."
Matthew and Michael also credit their father and their role in the military for their drive to excel. 

"He's my hero," Michael said. "He did a lot for us growing up."

Matthew explained that their roles as tactical air control party Airmen require high standards of physical and mental readiness, and this also keeps them working to stay sharp.

"Primarily, my concern is the mission," Matthew said. "If something were to pop off, I want to be in combat shape to go and do my duties."

Matthew has served for 10 years in the Air Guard while Michael has served for eight. Matthew mentored his brother in preparation for the competition, giving him the benefit of his experience, but said that Michael has what it takes to do well on his own in his first Best Warrior Competition.

"He has learned a lot," Matthew said. "He has been through a lot of training, so he's squared away."

Both brothers earned bragging rights during this year's competition. Matthew and Michael each achieved the highest event score during the interview portion, and they both scored among the top three in the obstacle course. Matthew earned the highest score on land navigation and Michael succeeded in earning the highest overall score among the junior enlisted soldiers.

The 149th Fighter Wing Command Chief Master Sgt. George Longoria, evaluator chairman for the essay portion of the event, expressed that the brothers' competitiveness is a quality that strengthens Americans. "Competing and being the best is part of our make up."

Top Guard leadership recognizes benefits of joint competition

Story by: Sgt. Suzanne Carter

Posted: Feb 7, 2015

Sgt. Suzanne Carter Command Sgt. Maj. Brunk W. Conley, the Army National Guard command sergeant major, talks with the range control officer at the M203 Range at Camp Swift near Bastrop, Texas, during the 2015 Texas Military Forces Best Warrior Competition Feb. 7, 2015. Conley visited the competition to offer encouragement to competitors who each diligently trained during their off-duty days to prepare for the challenges they would face. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Suzanne Carter)
Sgt. Suzanne Carter
Command Sgt. Maj. Brunk W. Conley, the Army National Guard command sergeant major, talks with the range control officer at the M203 Range at Camp Swift near Bastrop, Texas, during the 2015 Texas Military Forces Best Warrior Competition Feb. 7, 2015. Conley visited the competition to offer encouragement to competitors who each diligently trained during their off-duty days to prepare for the challenges they would face. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Suzanne Carter)

BASTROP, Texas --The grey sky and brisk wind did not keep leaders from supporting their troops during the final day of the Texas Military Forces Best Warrior Competition 2015 at Camp Swift.

One leader in particular traveled halfway across the country to cheer on the Soldiers and Airmen contending to reach the top.
"I'm really pleased that the leadership of the Texas National Guard has allowed me the opportunity to come out here and see these great men and women compete," said Command Sgt. Maj. Brunk W. Conley, the command sergeant major of the Army National Guard. "I couldn't say yes fast enough because every day out of [Washington] D.C. is a great day." 

Conley said that Texas has a unique strategy for selecting the Best Warrior by including Air Guardsmen in a traditionally Army National Guard only event.

"You're one of the only states that I know of that has a joint competition with both Soldiers and Airmen competing with and against each other," he said. "This brings the National Guard together… We learn about our Soldiers and Airmen, what they do. It breaks down barriers." 

Events like this joint Best Warrior Competition showcase the readiness of Texas' top Guardsmen and women, reflecting the long history of the National Guard as the "force of choice in homeland defense," Conley said.

"Since 9/11, we have become more operational than we've ever been in our history," he said. "We want to make sure that the investment that our nation and our states have placed in our [service members] is maintained."

Conley said that he spends as much time as he can drilling with and visiting units across the country in order to get the best sense of what the Soldiers and their noncommissioned officers need to continue to be the "best led, best trained, and best equipped National Guard in our history."

Journey to becoming Army Fit

Courtney and Tracy here to give you another update on our journey in becoming Army-fit!

Week 2

Courtney and Tracy here to give you another update on our journey in becoming Army-fit!

Our motivation remains high, but the holidays threw us off our schedule just a bit. We are ready to get back to our workout routine and complete our first run of the new year, when we realize Tracy’s running clothes are in her locked car, along with her car keys. So Courtney completes her run without Tracy but realizes how much it helps to have a running partner. Tracy spends time making arrangements to get into her car and does situps and pushups in her office. That is dedication! She completes her run the next morning, and on her run is lucky enough to meet an amazing runner who also happens to be a Master Fitness Trainer at Camp Mabry (read about her team in the December Dispatch article!, and stayed tuned here for more highlights from their team). 

Week 2 Tips: 

In talking to the Master Fitness Trainer, she offers some tips for strengthening core muscles which will help us with sit-ups. We are both aware of the need for strengthening our core muscles, which feel especially weak after years of sitting for long hours in our previous jobs, and not always with the best posture. 

  • For core strengthening, the Master Fitness Trainer recommends side and front and planks, and leg lifts, holding each for 60 seconds. 
  • Weak core muscles might make one more prone to hip or low-back problems, so we’re told to try sitting on a ball or ball chair at work desks to help with posture and keeping core muscles engaged. 
  • Practice pushups on the knees. 
  • Having a workout partner is key to staying motivated (as Courtney learned when running without Tracy).
  • Avoid a heavy meal prior to workout. We both notice that running is a bit more difficult after a big meal. 


Commentary by Courtney J. Lynch and Tracy K. Ward, Psychological Health Coordinators

CSM John L. Hoxie Named Texas Army National Guard Senior Enlisted Advisor

Command Sgt. Maj. John L. Hoxie, assumed responsibility
Command Sgt. Maj. John L. Hoxie, incoming Texas Army National Guard Senior Enlisted Advisor, addresses attendees at his change of responsibility ceremony held at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, Jan. 30, 2015. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Malcolm McClendon).

Commentary by Michelle McBride

AUSTIN, Texas (Feb. 4, 2015) – Command Sgt. Maj. John L. Hoxie, assumed responsibility as the Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Texas Army National Guard from Command Sgt. Maj. Richard Milford, Jan. 30, 2015, in a ceremony held at Camp Mabry in Austin.

During the ceremony Hoxie thanked his family for their many years of love, support and sacrifice. He also took time to thank the soldiers who make up the Texas Army National Guard.

"I want to thank all of the soldiers who made it here today," said Hoxie. "You have no idea how much you have influenced my career and helped me get to where I am."

Hoxie’s previous leadership positions include Squad Leader, Section Sergeant/Senior Scout, and Master Gunner. His awards include the Bronze Star w/V-Device, Meritorious Service Medal 4th award, Army Commendation Medal 5th award, Army Achievement Medal 3rd award, Southwest Asia Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, NCO Professional Development Ribbon, Multi-Force and Observers Medal 2nd award, Combat Infantry Badge, Excellence in Competition Badge (Rifle), Omar Bradley Leadership Award Recipient, Order of St. George, as well as numerous other awards and decorations.

"I’ve taken on quite a bit in this position and I truly have some big shoes to fill," said Hoxie, speaking to Milford.

As the Senior Enlisted Advisor for the Texas Army National Guard, Hoxie will advise the commander of the Texas Army National Guard on all enlisted matters affecting training, effective utilization, health of the force and enlisted professional development.

Marksmen compete in annual pistol match

Story By: Staff Sgt. Mindy Bloem

Posted: Feb 6.2015

Staff Sgt. Mindy Bloem Second Lt. Brian Street, 147th Civil Engineer Squadron assigned to Ellington Field Joint Reserve Base in Houston, checks his target at the Governor's 20 Pistol Match Jan. 24, 2015, at Camp Swift, Texas
Staff Sgt. Mindy Bloem
Second Lt. Brian Street, 147th Civil Engineer Squadron assigned to Ellington Field Joint Reserve Base in Houston, checks his target at the Governor's 20 Pistol Match Jan. 24, 2015, at Camp Swift, Texas

CAMP SWIFT, Texas - Sharpshooting Airmen, Soldiers and Texas State Guardsmen competed for a chance to be dubbed “best shot in the state” during the annual Adjutant General Governor’s 20 Pistol Match Jan. 23-25 at Camp Swift, Texas.

The top shooters from four separate competitions go on to comprise the team for the Governor’s 20. These shooters include the top eight in pistol, the top eight in rifle, the top two in machine gun, and the top two in sniper – 20 marksmen in all.

Because each team needs a certain amount of new shooters, Ellington Fields’s base marksmanship co-founder, 2nd Lt. Brian Street, said he’s always looking for fresh faces.

Street, who has now received both the pistol and machine gun tabs for finishing in the top percentile and is planning to compete in this year’s sniper and rifle competitions, encourages newcomers not to get discouraged their first time out.

“I thought I was a pretty good shot because I was coming off of active duty, and I always made expert,” said Street, recalling his first rifle match. “I got out here, and I got the humility beat into me. I didn't even finish some courses of fire. It was a train wreck through the whole weekend.”

Street has come a long way since that first self-proclaimed debacle in 2007 and asks those wanting to try it out to contact him.

One of this year’s newest recruits, Staff Sgt. Michael Oberts, a combat arms instructor assigned to the 147th Security Forces Squadron, decided to take full advantage of the opportunity. Besides wanting to see how he fared among the best in Texas, Oberts said that military members wanting to try their hand at sharpshooting just makes sense.

“As a member of the Armed Forces, you should be somewhat proficient with a weapon, seeing as you may have to use it to protect yourself and others or government property.”