A competitor in the 2017 Best Warrior Competition conducts the push-up portion of the APFT at the Niantic Readiness Center, March 23, 2017. (U.S. Army Photo by Sgt 1st Class Jordan Werme, 130th Public Affairs Detachment, CTARNG)


NIANTIC, Connecticut -- The Connecticut Army National Guard held its annual State Best Warrior Competition at Camp Niantic, March 23 through March 26. More than 30 of Connecticut’s competitive Soldiers participated in the strenuous events to compete for the titles of Non-Commissioned Officer and Soldier of the Year.

The competition utilizes Connecticut’s military training sites to place the Soldiers through various events testing their Army skills and mental and physical readiness. During the 72-hour event, competitors were challenged with an Army Physical Fitness Test, a “stress shoot,” various warrior tasks, a written examination, a 12- mile ruck march, day and night land navigation, a personal appearance board, and one mystery task that was not disclosed to competitors in advance.

“Generating readiness is our number one priority,” said Command Sgt. Maj. John S. Carragher, Connecticut State Command Sergeant Major. “We send more confident and more proficient Soldiers back to their units that accomplished some stuff that they may have never had the opportunity to before.”

The competition not only provides training and readiness to the competitors, but also provides other Soldiers with the same opportunities. The competitors have fellow Soldiers from their respective units serve as mentors for the competition, which builds unity, camaraderie, and leadership skills.

“The mentors are critically important; most of the mentors were previous competitors, so they come back and help the next generation of Soldiers and NCOs in order to excel,” Carragher said. “That's really part of what [this competition] is all about because one of our jobs is to get our replacements ready to take over.”

Carragher also spoke of the continued training that the staff running this competition receives.

“So much work goes into this competition from a staff and unit perspective as well,” Carragher said. “With staffing and operations there is an intrinsic training value there, for example the engineer battalion has to plan and execute [operating the firing range] to get that event done, and all of our different staff sections at each level of command do their [mission planning] in order to make the event successful.”

This event helps to prepare Soldiers to be ready to fulfill their purpose.

“[The National Guard] are huge piece of the Army and Airforce needs to protect the homeland and build partnerships, so when the governor calls we are more prepared to do what we need to do to protect our citizens,” Carragher said.

Leaders teach and lead warrior tasks and preform simulated situations for Soldiers. Non-competing Soldiers supporting the event learn about the skills being tested and what to look for in given scenarios.

“We are always training the staff, building capacity to create more leaders, everyone is important in this operation whether you are the cook or transporting the Soldiers,” said Master Sgt. George Mandell, State Training Non-Commissioned Officer and the Tactical Operations Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge of the competition.

“The competition provides functional job training, because everyone is working in their support roles, staffing are managing paper flow, strength reporting, risk mitigation, and if we drop the ball, how we recover and move forward,” said Mandell.

When event scores were tallied, Staff Sgt. Jason Halbach, 192nd Military Police Battalion, and Spc. Bryan Silk, 1st Battalion, 102nd Infantry Regiment, were chosen to represent the state at the next level of competition. For 2017, the Regional Best Warrior competition will be hosted at Fort Dix, New Jersey, where the competitors will receive more skills to take back to their Connecticut home units.

“This competition creates leaders. The biggest thing it does is gets people out of their comfort zone; the people that are willing to put in the work are going to be the leaders of tomorrow,” Mandell said.

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