VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. –
Virginia National Guard Soldiers representing the 229th Brigade Engineer Battalion and the Recruiting and Retention Battalion claimed top honors at the 2022 Virginia Army National Guard Best Warrior Competition April 3, 2022, at the State Military Reservation in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
Spc. Adam Marcus, assigned to the Fredericksburg-based Headquarters Company, 229th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 29th Infantry Division, won Soldier of the Year, while Staff Sgt. Austin Sturtz, assigned to Charlie Company, Virginia Army National Guard Recruiting and Retention Battalion, won Noncommissioned Officer of the Year.
Brig. Gen. K. Weedon Gallagher, the Virginia National Guard Land Component Commander, and Command Sgt. Maj. Ronald Smith, the VNG Command Sergeant Major, both gave remarks at the ceremony praising the winners, the other contestants and the support staff which made the competition happen.
“I can’t tell you how pleased I am with what’s taken place the last four days,” Smith said. “I’ve watched you all give it your best, seen camaraderie and teamwork and developing as young leaders. I know the military is in good hands seeing these are the type of Soldiers we’re producing.”
In addition to the competitors, Gallagher made a point to recognize the sponsors of the competitors as well as the organizers of the event.
“The reason why it was run so smoothly is because it was run by NCOs,” Gallagher said. “Each of the MSCs were responsible for a different event and they did a great job of executing.”
Smith pointed out the hard work that went on to make the event happen.
“It’s an eight-month process and a lot of things go into this event,” he said. “This cannot be done without the hard work of the G3 section and every entity of the Virginia Army National Guard.”
The four-day event began at SMR where Soldiers conducted Army Warrior Tasks, a written exam and a physical fitness challenge. They then traveled via Black Hawk helicopter to Fort Pickett where they tackled the Air Assault obstacle course, day and night land navigation, a ruck march and a 3-gun event. After traveling back to Virginia Beach, the Soldiers underwent an appearance board before senior NCOs from around the state.
“At the end of the day, if I wasn’t a winner I would have still been happy because I got camaraderie out of it, I got to shoot the new pistol, I got to do a good range and I got some rucking in,” Sturtz said. “It was just an all-around good challenge to see your physical fitness state and learn some basic warrior task drills.”
Sturtz, who serves as a SMP liaison and on campus recruiter at Christoher Newport University and the College of William & Mary, joined the Virginia National Guard in 2018 after serving three and a half years on active duty. For him, the most challenging aspect of the competition was the mental preparation.
Marcus, a signal support specialist who has served in the Virginia National Guard for four and a half years, has been aiming for this since November 2021 and performed better than he expected.
“It was definitely grueling,” he said. “The ruck was toughest event and I’m more exhausted physically than mentally.”
Two Soldiers from the 329th Regional Support Group were the runners up. Spc. Luis Camacho, assigned to the Blackstone-based 3647th Maintenance Company, 529th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, was the runner up for Soldier of the Year and Staff Sgt. Stephen Moniuszko, assigned to the West Point-based 237th Engineer Company, 276th Engineer Battalion, was runner up in the NCO competition.
Marcus and Sturtz will represent the Virginia National Guard at the regional-level competition later in 2022 at Camp Dawson, West Virginia, where they hope to repeat their performance at the state level.
Marcus said he identified a few things he needs to work on at regionals but he’s going to have a lot of fun no matter what.
“I’m hurting a little,” Sturtz admitted, “but I’m super excited for the regionals and I think we’ll do good things and represent Virginia well.”