Chilean forces compete in Texas Guard Best Warrior Competition

Story by: Sgt. Adrian Shelton

Posted On: February 8, 2016

Senior Master Sgt. Elizabeth Gilbert Pfc. Marcial Ortiz, Chilean navy, competes in the obstacle course portion of the Texas Military Department's 2016 Best Warrior Competition at Camp Swift in Bastrop, Texas, Feb. 6, 2016. Traditionally a joint competition with competitors from the Texas Army and Air National Guards, this year's event invited service members from the U.S. Army Reserves component and the Chilean military to compete in the three-day grueling competition, testing the aptitude of each competitor in several mentally and physically challenging events relevant in today's operational environment. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Elizabeth Gilbert/Released)
Senior Master Sgt. Elizabeth Gilbert
Pfc. Marcial Ortiz, Chilean navy, competes in the obstacle course portion of the Texas Military Department's 2016 Best Warrior Competition at Camp Swift in Bastrop, Texas, Feb. 6, 2016. Traditionally a joint competition with competitors from the Texas Army and Air National Guards, this year's event invited service members from the U.S. Army Reserves component and the Chilean military to compete in the three-day grueling competition, testing the aptitude of each competitor in several mentally and physically challenging events relevant in today's operational environment. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Elizabeth Gilbert/Released)

BASTROP, Texas – Troops from the Chilean Marine Corps and Chilean Army reinforced their continuing partnership with the Texas Army and Air National Guard during the state's Best Warrior Competition held at Camp Swift in Bastrop, Texas, Feb. 4-7, 2016.

Although Texas has highlighted a joint Best Warrior Competition for several years, combining warriors from both the Texas Army and Texas Air National Guards, this was the first year the competition went international.

Chilean service members were selected to represent their country in the competition based on top performances in areas such as marksmanship and physical fitness. 

"As soon as I got the notification that I was selected for the competition, I started looking at the tasks required in the competition on YouTube," said 2nd Cpl. Jesus Vasquez, Special Operations Brigade, Chilean Marine Corps. "I thought it was an awesome competition.”

"This event was like a wedding and we planned it," said Texas Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Alfonso Garcia, the State Partnership Program noncommissioned officer in charge of the Texas-Chile program. "We set up the logistics and the agendas and had everything all laid out, so when the Chileans came here everything flowed seamlessly."

The Chilean troops only had two days to learn the things that were different for them, such as certain weapons and communications equipment said Garcia. 

"Our National Guard sponsors had a big part in helping us to prepare," Vasquez said. "The security measures in place for events like weapons qualification were very efficient and very safe. We learned alongside the National Guard troops and built a good relationship."

Garcia and other Guardsmen helped translate for the Chileans throughout the long weekend. 

The Chileans found the week's events provided not only an opportunity to compete, but also presented them with unique challenges. 

"It wasn’t always easy for us to communicate because of cultural and phonetic differences," said Chilean army Sgt. Maj. Juan Gonzalez, who sponsored the Chilean soldiers in the competition. "But the Guard had good translators and a lot of the Guardsmen spoke Spanish and made it easier for us to learn the scenarios during the competition."

The Chilean troops experienced some physical challenges as well and noted the geographic differences between Chile and Texas.

"In Chile, with its very high and low temperatures and differing elevations, we train differently on our land navigation courses," Chilean Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Guillermo Zepeda, the sponsor for the Chilean Marine competitors. "The points on the land navigation course are not consistent and change with the terrain, and our terrain and woodlands are more dense and not as flat."

"The height of some of the obstacles on the obstacle course was challenging because we are typically short people," Vasquez said. "The obstacle course looks more well-rounded for taller soldiers. "

Despite this extra challenge, Staff Sgt. Cristobal Inostroza, Chilean Marine Corps, finished first in the obstacle course with one of the fastest times ever seen in the history of this competition. He also placed first in the road march.

During the road march, Vasquez and Gonzalez ran the entire march with their troops because they wanted their troops to know he and Gonzalez were there to support them said Vasquez. 

Vasquez and Gonzalez are planning to take their experience from the Texas Military Department’s Best Warrior Competition home with them and do something similar in Chile.

"We looked at all of this as a model for our own best warrior competition we're planning to have next year," Gonzalez said. 

Texas Guardsmen might even have the chance to compete against their Chilean partners again.

"I would like for more Texas National Guard service members to participate in our best warrior competition next time," Vasquez said. "It would only be the right thing to do in return for them inviting us here."

At the end of the competition, who placed first didn’t appear to be nearly as important as new relationships forged and the camaraderie between the partner forces strengthened.

"What we realized as we work together to do competitions like this, is we all do the same thing and train the same, we're just in different color uniforms," said Command Sgt. Maj. Mark A. Weedon, senior enlisted advisor of the Texas Military Department. "Chile is our South American partner, through our State Partnership Program, and we train together throughout the year. So this is the culmination of that relationship going to the next level."