Bastrop County Judge Paul Pape reads a proclamation recognizing the soldiers and airmen competing in the Texas National Guard Best Warrior Competition at Camp Swift, Bastrop, Texas, on Saturday, Feb. 8, 2014.
Bastrop County Judge Paul Pape reads a proclamation recognizing the soldiers and airmen competing in the Texas National Guard Best Warrior Competition at Camp Swift, Bastrop, Texas, on Saturday, Feb. 8, 2014.

Story by: Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Griego

 BASTROP, Texas - National Guard supporters at the Bastrop County Commissioners Court issued a proclamation Feb. 8,  2014, in support of the Best Warrior Competition, held annually at Camp Swift. The installation, located near the city of  Bastrop in central Texas, hosts the joint, statewide event each February to recognize the fittest and most professional  Guardsmen within the Texas Military Forces.

 "We're very excited about this competition being here," said Hon. Paul Pape, county judge for Bastrop County. "We believe  in the mission of the National Guard. We are so thankful that men and women in the National Guard are here to protect our  country and to serve our country to promote freedom here and abroad."

 Pape, who read the resolution just prior to the confidence course event, welcomed the competition and all Texas  Guardsmen to the county and offered further support in the form of a fund-raising golf tournament benefiting the  competitors.

 "It's our way of saying thank you," said Pape. "I hope that they can go back to their homes in Texas and know that we  here in central Texas appreciate what they're doing."

 The day was celebrated by regional and national figures within the military community, including Chief Master Sgt. Mitchell  Brush, the National Guard Bureau's senior enlisted adviser.

"When we go out and get a chance to see these events hosted in our states," said Brush, "the biggest thing that we're looking for is support from the community because we certainly can't do any of this without our communities and our families supporting us."

The competition featured 16 non-commissioned officers and 11 junior enlisted Guardsmen engaging a three-day gauntlet of events, including land navigation, weapons qualification, a six-mile road march, the confidence course, an appearance review board, and a written essay.

"We're very unique as the National Guard," said Brush, speaking of the two branches that make up the component. "We fight fires together, we fight floods together. It's great that we can meet today and build those relationships instead of when we're in a crisis situation where we don't have time to make those introductions."

Strong working relationships are important to Texas Guardsmen, where the airmen and soldiers seldom have opportunities to train alongside each other. Events like this bridge the gap between the branches and reinforce the common ground in our missions.

"It's a good thing for Texas as a whole," said Don Nicholas, the district director for Texas Representative Ralph Sheffield. "People come from around the area, around the state, to witness this important event that takes place here."

The resolution demonstrates a commitment of support from the county only an hour from Austin's Camp Swift, headquarters for the Texas Air and Army National Guards. By celebrating the competition that highlights Texas' finest, the county recognizes the sacrifices and duty of the state's men and women in uniform.

"It gives the public an opportunity to see that our military is trained and prepared," said State Rep. Tim Kleinschmidt, "and it's not just sitting behind a desk somewhere."

"When the [judge] comes out here on a day that's overcast, cold and gray," said Brush, "and he wants to read a proclamation declaring that today is best warrior day, it just fills my heart with pride to see that we've got such amazing support from our civilian counterparts."