Story by: Sgt. Brad Mincey
FORT JACKSON, S.C. – Some of the South Carolina Army National Guard’s best non-commissioned officers and enlisted Soldiers from across the state gathered at the McCrady Training Center on Fort Jackson, Eastover, South Carolina, Jan. 30-Feb. 3 to compete against each other in the 2015 South Carolina National Guard Best Warrior Competition.
The five-day competition pitted Soldier against Soldier in a variety of events that tested their physical stamina, mental sharpness and technical skills.
“The Best Warrior Competition is a state event that allows us to gauge the status of Soldiers physically and mentally,” said Sgt. 1st Class Joan Keese, 218th Infantry Regiment. “Our Soldiers compete against each other at the state level, and the winner here will go on to represent South Carolina at the regional level.”
The BWC competition consists of numerous events that test the competitor’s knowledge and endurance. One of the first events is the Army Physical Fitness Test which started at 5 a.m. on the second day where Soldiers were tested on their physical fitness by measuring their ability to perform pushups, sit ups and a two-mile run.
Later that same day, the competitors went to the MOUT (Military Operations in Urban Terrain) near the McCrady site to demonstrate their knowledge in weapons and tactical movement.
“The Soldiers have to dismantle and put together a variety of weapons and then conduct a functions check on them,” said Keese. “The Urban Ops is one of the most difficult sections because of all the different events that need to be completed. Once they complete the weapons section, they go through the MOUT site where they react to targets, make a MBITR-S radio function and throw grenades.”
As they go through the site, competitors were presented with enemy and friendly targets and had to distinguish between them and react accordingly. Soldiers used UTM (Ultimate Training Munitions) rounds instead of blanks to mark the targets with a chalk mark to designate a hit or miss.
In addition, the competitors also have to properly react to medical situations all while dealing with simulated explosions, smoke and threats from unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). The UAV added one more distraction to an already stressful event.
“I’m piloting a RQ11-B Raven and seeing how they react to it as they go through the lanes at the MOUT site,” said Sgt. 1st Class Gary Lain, 59th Aviation Troop Command. “The Raven is a two-man portable UAV that weighs 4.5 lbs. Its small, light weight and tactical and allows us to see the terrain without having to send up a piloted vehicle.”
Day three consisted of qualifying with the M9 pistol and M4 carbine, a stress shoot and finished up with a ruck march.
Soldiers prepared for the competition in a variety of ways. Some, because of their military occupation specialties, perform these skills often. Others, who only serve during drill and annual training, have to make time in their busy schedules to train for the events.
“As an M-DAY (traditional) Soldier, I have to really work to find time to train around my civilian job,” said Sgt. Seth Crosby, Company A, 218th Brigade Support Battalion, one of the BWC competitors. “I hit the gym, run when I can, and train whenever I can find the time.”
Finally, when all of the events were completed and the results were tallied, the winners were announced at the BWC awards banquet Feb. 3.
“All of you did an outstanding job,” said State Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Brickley. “You all came here as individuals but you’re leaving as a well-oiled group. You came together as one, which is the American way, the enlisted way.”
Garnering top honors for NCO of the Year was Sgt. Brian Lemieux of the 228th Signal Brigade.
“It was a fantastic competition,” Lemieux said. “It was fun to do the Army stuff that you join to do. I would do it again in a heartbeat and hope I can do as well at the next level.”
Winning the Enlisted Soldier of the Year title was Spc. Hunter Vaught of the 218th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade.
“The ruck march was the most difficult event of the competition but when we finished, we really had a sense of accomplishment,” Vaught said. “I’m looking forward to the next level of competition and I hope we represent South Carolina very well.”
Having won in South Carolina, Lemieux and Vaught earned their spots in the Region III Best Warrior Competition to be held at St. Croix, Virgin Islands, later this year.