FORT PICKETT, Va. — Virginia Army National Guard Soldiers representing the Virginia Beach-based 329th Regional Support Group and Maneuver Training Center Fort Pickett claimed top honors at the 2020 VNG Best Warrior Competition July 11, 2020, at Fort Pickett, Virginia.
The 329th’s Spc. Braxton Todd was named Soldier of the Year, and MTC’s Sgt. Devin Piotrowski was named Noncommissioned Officer of the Year after a five-event competition designed to test the Soldiers physically and mentally.
The competition was originally scheduled for March 2020, but was postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The event was also condensed down to one and a half days, putting even more pressure on the competitors.
“The Army Best Warrior Competition is an annual competition held throughout the Department of the Army. It’s dedicated to recognizing the Soldiers of all components of the United States Army,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Ronald L. Smith, the Virginia Army National Guard command sergeant major. “The competition tests each individual on all facets of Warrior skills. Soldiers who participated in this year’s Best Warrior Competition competed in all-challenging events here at Fort Pickett.”
Four NCOs and three Soldiers representing four major subordinate commands completed in the event. On the first day of the competition, the participants tackled a written exam complete with essay. On the second day, the Soldiers conducted an Army Combat Fitness test in the morning, challenge their strength, speed and stamina.
Following the ACFT, the Soldiers made their way to Fort Pickett’s Urban Assault Course, where they faced the Iron Warrior Course. Designed by the Marksmanship Training Unit at the Fort Pickett-based 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute, the Iron Warrior Course included shooting proficiency stations using the M4 rifle, M9 pistol and M500 shotgun, interspersed with physical challenges including weight sled drag and water can carry. At the last stage of the timed course, competitors had to transport a 180-pound mannequin simulating a combat casualty 100 yards across a finish line. Time bonuses were awarded for successfully engaging targets, and time penalties were added for any missteps or miscues.
During the awards ceremony at the conclusion of the event, Sgt. Jacob Kothe, the Staunton-Based 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team’s NCO representative, was given a special Iron Warrior plaque for completing the course in the fastest time.
The Soldiers then had to conduct an on-camera interview during a mock media engagement before preparing for formal appearance boards in front of a panel of sergeants major. During the boards, Soldiers were given a rapid-fire test of their knowledge of basic Army regulations, policies and procedures, and had to convince the panel why they deserved to be called the Best Warrior.
“Today’s Warrior Soldiers must be versed in a wide variety of Warrior tasks,” said Smith. “I am proud of these warriors sitting here today, because they are the future leaders of our organization.”
After results were tallied, the competitors and their sponsors, as well as senior NCOs from across the state, gathered at the RTI auditorium for the awards ceremony. There, Smith commended all seven competitors for their efforts.
“I’d like to thank the awesome competitors we have here today. You all have really showed what being a Warrior means,” said Smith. “You’ve given it your all. I know we had a shorter, abbreviated competition, but I’m extremely proud of each and every one of you.
“Although we can only crown two Soldiers as the best Soldier and NCO, all competitors exhibited a winning Warrior spirit.”
Piotrowski and Todd were then named overall winners, and received the Army Achievement Medal for their accomplishments. Staff Sgt. Eddie Jones, representing the 29th Infantry Division, and Spc. Neil Miller, representing the 116th IBCT, were named runners-up for the competition.
Command Sgt. Maj. Mical Seaton, one of the competition’s organizers, commended the Soldiers who participated and everyone who helped the event come together.
“I am very pleased that we were able to execute the event, even though condensed, during these trying times,” said Seaton. “I’m very proud of the RTI and G3 teams for being able to conduct such a professional event.”
The two winners will go on to represent the Virginia National Guard at the Regional Best Warrior Competition, scheduled to be held in Maryland in late July 2020. The runners-up will compete if for any reason the winners are unable to attend.
MORE PHOTOS: 329th, MTC Soldiers claim top spots at VNG Best Warrior Competition