FORT PICKETT, Va. – Soldiers assigned to the Virginia Beach-based 329th Regional Support Group competed for top honors in the RSG’s Best Warrior Competition Dec. 10-11, 2020, at Fort Pickett, Virginia. Over the two days, Soldiers squared off in six events designed to test and challenge them mentally and physically.
Each Soldier put forth their best effort in hopes of earning the RSG’s Noncommissioned Officer of the Year and the Soldier of the Year honors, but only two walked away with the distinguished titles. Sgt. Michael Walker II, assigned to the Virginia Beach-based 329th Headquarters and Headquarters Company, was named NCO of the Year. Spc. Luke Shallenberger, assigned to the West Point-based 237th Engineer Company, was named Soldier of the Year.
The competition included a written test, Army warrior tasks, land navigation, a 6-mile road march, a 3-gun shooting range and a formal oral interview.
“My hope is that [competitors] leave here dirty, tired and hungry and with a good, high morale,” said the 329th’s Command Sgt. Maj. Dempsey Whitt. “We need to do more of this with the Guard. The more we can get Soldiers out of the armory and out doing soldier stuff, that’s what they came in the Guard to do.”
The 329th’s competition kicked off after Soldiers arrived Thursday evening. After dropping personal items into their barracks rooms, participants were ushered to their first event, the written test. The hour and a half long, essay-based test evaluated their ability to develop and write a response to a complex question.
“Our future NCOs are expected to be able to articulate themselves both written and orally. That will be a big part of their professional development going forward,” said Master Sgt. Sammy Jones, the overall event coordinator.
Following the written test, Soldiers rotated through four Army warrior tasks. Participants were required to identify symbols on a map, report a 9-line medical evacuation, verbally respond to a chemical attack and administer self-aid to a simulated injury.
Day two saw Soldiers up before dawn being shuttled to the land navigation course where they had two hours to find their designated points.
Following land navigation, Soldiers rolled right into a 6-mile road march, facing a 90-minute time limit to complete the course while carrying 35 pounds of gear. At the end of the road march, Soldiers went straight into the 3-gun shooting range, where they engaged targets using an M4 rifle, M17 pistol and a shotgun.
After the range, the Soldiers were given a short break to conduct personal hygiene and prepare for the sixth and final event, the formal interview. During their interviews, Soldiers were asked about various topics to include military history, pertinent regulations, the NCO Creed as well as demonstrating proper drill and ceremony movements.
“I figured it would just be a good experience,” said Shallenberger, when asked why he wanted to participate in the competition. “Not a lot of people necessarily get to do this so I figured I might as well do it.”
The newly-crowned NCO of the Year said the rigors of the competition helped him learn something about himself.
“You can push your body a lot further than your mind thinks you can,” said Walker. “Sometimes on the ruck march when you’re huffing and puffing and want to give up, you just go that extra mile and the next thing you know you’re at the finish line.”
Both winners received Army Achievement Medals for their exemplary efforts and will go on to represent the 329th RSG at the state-level competition, scheduled in March 2021.