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.

Journey to becoming Army Fit

Freezing Cold, and we’re out on the track in several layers of clothing.

Week 1

Freezing Cold, and we’re out on the track in several layers of clothing.  Northerners would think we are real wimps putting on this many clothes for 40 degree weather. Coat: check, Gloves: check, Hat: check.  Extra clothes: check. Stop Watch: NOPE.  Not today.  Today's goal is to make it around the 1-mile track at Camp Mabry twice without passing out or throwing up.  

We run some and walk some but complete the two miles feeling pretty accomplished!  Actually it is not bad at all.  We’re talking (good sign, that means we are breathing) and laughing and sharing about ourselves.  We really do not know each other very well because we just met 2 months ago and work in different buildings. We agreed to try a routine of running three times a week at a minimum, at the end of our work day. 

After the run we decide to humble ourselves a little bit by trying the pushups and the sit ups.  

I did 5 pushups (I don't believe they are “legitimate” but there is time for that) and Courtney is so kind she tells me good job.  Just so you know, I did embarrass myself by asking a Lieutenant if I could do my pushups on my knees.  She kindly informed me that all pushups had to be done on the toes.  She gave me more information on how to do the pushups correctly but I was spinning from the idea that I had to do them on my toes, so I do not have that information at this time.

I then try the situps.  I dread this.  I hate situps and my core is MUSH.  I am not only NOT Army Fit I am Citizen Mush when it comes to the core.  I definitely need some guidance in this area.  HELP.  Anyway, I push through 10 really ugly situps.  Again, Courtney is nothing but supportive, but now her turn.

Run, not bad, but slow as she goes! I get through the two miles relatively unscathed but only because Tracy (too humble to tell you she’s a former runner) slows her pace to stay with me the whole run. 
Pushups are another story altogether. I quickly learn that my form is hideous at best. I thought I was doing pretty well cranking out a second push-up when Tracy nicely complimented my plank position form. “I’m doing pushups!” I manage to say.  I’ve been told that the correct form is when upper arms are parallel to the ground, but at this point I’m finding parallel to be very overrated. Sit-ups went a bit better but I’m pretty sure I won’t be allowed 5-minute breaks between each sit up, so I’ll have to work on pace. 

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

Journey to becoming Army Fit

Join us as two behavioral health therapists train to become mentally and physically “Army Fit.”

I am Tracy Keating Ward and I am Courtney Lynch.

Hi! I am Tracy Keating Ward and I am Courtney Lynch.  We are Psychological Health Coordinators (PHCs) for the State of Texas and we are located at the beautiful Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas.

Being therapists, we have spent a good portion of our lives learning the ins and outs of mental / emotional fitness.  However, due to busy lives and a deep desire to help others, we have found ourselves failing at being physically fit.  This has a lot to do with sitting for long hours in a chair, as therapists sometimes do, driving long hours commuting (traffic, traffic, traffic), and not prioritizing any type of regular exercise routine.  This level of poor fitness does not just appear suddenly. It creeps up day after day until you realize you now get winded going up a flight of stairs.  UGH. 

Working in a military setting and being surrounded by a large number of fit people really opens your eyes to evaluate your own fitness level.  Seeing service members running in the morning, during lunch and after work (no matter the temperature) makes you reflect on your own lack of commitment to exercising.  We have decided that we want to be role models and be both mentally fit and physically fit.

How do we do this? In talking to service members, we learn that taking a PT test every six months is a big motivator in their staying fit. So we decided to challenge ourselves to see if we could pass a PT test on March 23, 2015. Please note that we said we want to PASS the test, not EXCEED.  Passing means getting a score of 60 percent on each of the three skill sets: two-mile run, pushups, and sit-ups. 

Tracy:  That means for me, who is a 52 year-old female, I have to do nine pushups in two minutes, 28 sit-ups in two minutes and run two miles in 24 minutes and 24 seconds.  

Courtney:  And for me, at age 43, I have to do 12 pushups, 32 sit-ups and a 2-mile run in 23 minutes and 42 seconds.

We’ve begun to talk to others about our goals. Service members we have talked to have been encouraging, respectful, and did not die laughing when they heard how few pushups we had to do.  (Just like a service member to always be respectful). 

We have committed to blogging weekly about our progress.  If you are so inclined to join our fitness mission, or just want to follow our progress, please do.  If you are a civilian employee, contractor, or family member, and want to join us in becoming “Army Fit,” go to to find the standards for your age and gender. Remember, if you just want to pass like us, look at the numbers that fall in the 60 percent column.  Also, if there is a medical reason you cannot run, you are allowed to walk (a very fast walk), swim 800 meters, or bike 6 miles.  

Every journey starts with the first step.