Story by Tech. Sgt. Augustin Salazar, 149th Fighter Winger Public Affairs, Texas Air National Guard
JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO- LACKLAND, Texas -Three airmen assigned to The 149th Fighter Wing participated in the Texas Military Department 2020 Best Warrior Competition at Camp Swift in Bastrop, Texas March 4-8, 2020.
Staff Sgt. Juan Garcia, Staff Sgt. Derek Guedes and Senior Airman Shara Lewis, all assigned to the 149th Fighter Wing, all took on the annual four-day challenge designed to test tactical and technical expertise through scored events.
One of the events the competitors must complete is a water survival test. The water survival test is a 125 yard swim in full uniform, and then they must tread water for ten minutes.
“I would say the water survival test was the most challenging part," said Lewis. "It caught most people by surprise because we hear a 125 yard swim, and most people think, 'I can do that, I do that in the pool all the time. But when you’re in uniform and combat boots, the boots fill up with water, and they start sinking you real quick surprise water and sink you real quick.”
The purpose of the event is to build camaraderie and strengthen inter-agency relationships among Texas Guardsmen. With all of the members running the competition against one another, it may not seem like an excellent team-building event. Still, the competitors often help each other and cheer each other on during the challenges.
"I have learned a lot from my roommate," said Lewis. "Staff Sgt. Guevara, she has taught me a lot since I got here. She is awesome."
Bonds like the one between Lewis and Guevara are beneficial to the Texas Military Department as a whole during natural disasters like hurricane Harvey in 2017. During hurricane recovery missions, the Army and Air Guard often deploy together.
"The event is important because not only are they practicing their warrior skills, but they are also learning how to work with each other." Said Senior Master Sgt. Juan Flores, 149th Security Forces Squadron superintendent.
"We work hand in hand with the Army quite a bit, whether that be in natural disasters or the border mission. So it is important that we learn to work with them to learn how to do it well."
In total, 31 competitors participated in this year’s TMDBWC, including military members from the Czech Republic and Chile who are both partners of the Texas military under the State Partnership Program.
The competition gives all parties involved an opportunity to work with and learn from each other.
"The Chileans are great people," said Garcia. "I've been able to talk to them and become good friends with them. I was even able to help one of them learn how to disassemble and reassemble the Mark 19 Machine Gun because I speak Spanish. It felt really good to teach someone else and he was super appreciative."
The winners of this year’s Best Warrior Competition will be named and honored at a banquet in April. Winners from the Army National Guard will continue to represent Texas in the regional and national Best Warrior competitions later this year.