Same But Different--Army and Air National Guard battle for 'Best Warrior'
By Senior Master Sgt. Elizabeth Gilbert, 136th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
/ Published February 12, 2015
2015/02/08 -- BASTROP, Texas - This year's 2015 Texas Military Forces Best Warrior Competition brought out 35 guardsmen from both the Texas Army and Air National Guard who competed here to determine who would be the best of the best Feb. 5-7.
"The Best Warrior Competition is a big deal for Texas and the Texas Military Forces," said Command Sgt. Maj. Mark Weedon, TXMF senior enlisted adviser. "It is one of the biggest joint events we have involving actual soldiers and airmen. This event allows the soldier and airman to compete with each other in both physical and mental challenges."
The competition demonstrated the knowledge and skills of the guardsmen in seven events, spanning three days. The first day started with an essay, testing their aptitude, writing abilities and critical thinking and how well the soldiers and the airmen express their thoughts. Following the writing skills, the competitors met with a panel of senior enlisted leaders who barraged them with a series of questions pertaining to their military tasks.
"We are from the same Texas Military Forces," said Command Chief Master Sgt. Kevin O'Gorman, state command chief for the Texas Air National Guard. "When we deploy in a joint environment, we work together side-by-side and we need to foster that early on. This competition brings camaraderie and jointness, even though soldiers and airmen do things differently."
Day two started with a twilight land-navigation course at 5 a.m. and finished after daybreak. Once again the soldiers and airmen battle-tested their skills in map reading and compass headings - plotting the points to discover hidden flags throughout the course.
Shortly after completing land navigation, the competitors went to the weapons-qualification range, then on to the 11 Army warrior task lanes. Both Army and Air Force participants demonstrated their ability to disassemble and reassemble weapons ranging from a 9 mm pistol to an M2 machine gun, as well as testing in combat-first-aid techniques.
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Steven Hein, 136th Security Forces Squadron, and member of the Richardson Police Department, finished first during the land navigation course, coming in at 1 hour and 29 minutes, finding three of four flags.
"It's been a privilege to come out here and contend with the best," said Hein. "It's definitely good to come out here to compete and learn from the other guys like the Army and other guys in the tactical control party."
Many of the competitors felt that the last day of the competition was the most challenging and exhausting. It included the mile-long obstacle course, containing nine stations with rigorous calisthenics in between obstacles, a six-mile ruck march and finished with three mystery events. The total course spanned eight miles as each competitor attempted to conquer each event with a go or no-go while carrying a 35-pound ruck sack on their back.
"The BWC is tougher than all the races I've competed in," said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Candice Wade, a veteran competitor in the Warrior Dash, Tough Mudder and Spartan Races. "The Best Warrior Competition is in a much higher level ... dealing with a land navigation course, eight types of weapons, combat casualty care, an obstacle course, ruck march and various physical events. I can say that this is absolutely the most difficult thing I've ever done."
Among the spectators present were Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, the adjutant general for Texas, and Maj. Gen. Edmundo Villarroel Geissbuhler, Chilean army liaison officer, who were both here to observe the competing guardsmen.
"There are two competitions going on here," said Nichols. "One is the competition between Army and Air Force. The other is between the soldiers so we can send forth the best soldier in a national competition and be the best in the U.S. Army. This is a big deal to us."
Geissbuhler strolled through the courses, closely observing each station, cheering on the soldiers and airmen racing through the obstacles.
"We have a lot of contact with the Texas Military Forces, both in the Air Force and Army," said Geissbuhler. "This state partnership began in 2008 and there are a lot of activities we do together. I received an invitation to come here today and I'm very glad to be here."
Texas and Chile are part of the State Partnership Program, using military-to-military relationships between the U.S. and Chile to increase military capabilities and interoperability.
When asked if the Chileans have this type of competition amongst their military forces, Geissbuhler said, "We do have this competition in Chile, it is part of our training. We have been approved to send four competitors here to the BWC next year and compete among the TXMF. We will be sending two soldiers and two airmen and hope to do well."
By the end of the three-day event, the competitors seemed both mentally and physically exhausted.
"I'm here to do my best, not just as a woman, but as a soldier," said U.S. Army Sgt. Wendy Farris, 149th Aviation Battalion, one of the four female competitors. "This was really exciting. I've learned a lot and grown in the process. I'm devising my plan for next year's competition."
There were 22 Army and 13 Air Force competitors, coming from all parts of Texas. Most of the competing guardsmen were drill status guardsmen. They also serve Texas as police officers, firefighters, physical strength trainers and other professionals.
The overall winners for the competition will be announced at an award ceremony April 11, 2015.