Story by: Sgt. Michael Vanpool

Posted on: January 12, 2016

Staff Sgt. Timothy Boutte, the senior mechanic for Company D, 949th Brigade Support Battalion, 56th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 36th Infantry Division, Texas Army National Guard, pushes through prone rows while Command Sgt. Maj. Michelle Thompson, the battalion's command sergeant major, motivates him to complete the air assault course at Camp Swift, Jan. 8. The course was one of eight events that were part of the 56th Infantry Brigade Combat Team’s Best Warrior Competition. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Michael Vanpool/Released)
Staff Sgt. Timothy Boutte, the senior mechanic for Company D, 949th Brigade Support Battalion, 56th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 36th Infantry Division, Texas Army National Guard, pushes through prone rows while Command Sgt. Maj. Michelle Thompson, the battalion's command sergeant major, motivates him to complete the air assault course at Camp Swift, Jan. 8. The course was one of eight events that were part of the 56th Infantry Brigade Combat Team’s Best Warrior Competition. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Michael Vanpool/Released)

BASTROP, Texas - “You can do it!” “Just one more left!” “Woo who, you’re almost there!”

Those aren’t exactly words exchanged between people competing for the same title. But it is what a group of Soldiers were saying to each other this past weekend.

Seven Soldiers of the 56th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 36th Infantry Division, Texas Army National Guard, competed in the brigade’s Best Warrior Competition at Camp Swift, Jan. 8-10.

Ultimately, one noncommissioned officer and one junior enlisted Soldier bested out their comrades to achieve the title of Best Warrior. The winners were Staff Sgt. Jake Jackson, the supply sergeant for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, 144th Infantry Regiment, and Spec. Russell Bega, an infantryman with Company D, 2nd Battalion, 142 Infantry Regiment. They each now have the chance to enter the Texas National Guard Best Warrior Competition. 

“You’ve got to train, not just your body but get mentally prepared,” Bega said. “Whether it’s the board or a 60-foot obstacle tower, you have to be confident in yourself to get past it and that you have the mental fortitude to succeed.”

The road to the title was no cake walk. Combining the ruck march, two runs through a land navigation course, and the air assault course, the competitors pounded their boots on the ground for more than 20 miles throughout a span of 36 hours.

The weekend was also sprinkled with an appearance board, a written essay, and the assembly and disassembly of five military-grade weapons.

“All of this represents tasks that we should all know,” Jackson said. “Whatever your skill set, you should be professional and try your best.”

The down time between events was minimal, but it was not a time for rest. After Soldiers worked through their individual events, they motivated each other to push themselves to their boiling point.

“We want everyone to do their best and to beat each other at their best,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Clinton Petty, the brigade’s acting command sergeant major. “There’s no glory in beating someone on their worst day. There’s more satisfaction in beating them on their best day.”

The competitors were selected from their battalions about two months prior to the brigade’s competition. In between the battalion and brigade competitions, the traditional feasts during the holidays could have prevented a solid physical state.

“I prepared with a lot of PT, a lot of studying,” Jackson said, “which was hard with all the food around during the Christmas break.”

Being citizens Soldiers, most of the preparation took place during the time between drills, and it was often the sole responsibility of each competitor to find their own motivation.

“No matter what as long as I did everything in my power and the confidence in myself I could get it done,” Bega said. “There were times on the land navigation] course where I got tangled up and frustrated. But you take a second, time to breathe, you find out you’re capable of more than you think.”

This internal motivation, boosted by the cheering of fellow Soldiers, pushed the competitors to their physical and mental limits.

“I really think that being a part of something bigger, not just the 56th Brigade, but we’re all a part of the Texas Guard, we’re all a part of the Army.”