NEWS | June 1, 2022

229th BEB, RRB Soldiers represent VNG at Region II Best Warrior

By Mike Vrabel | Virginia National Guard Public Affairs Office

Two Virginia Army National Guard Soldiers competed for the titles of Soldier of the Year and Noncommissioned Officer of the Year during the Region II Best Warrior Competition May 17 - 20, 2022, at Camp Dawson, West Virginia. 

Spc. Adam Marcus and Staff Sgt. Austin Sturtz represented the Virginia National Guard at the competition after being named the VNG’s Soldier and NCO of the Year following the state-level competition in April 2022. The pair competed in the mountains of West Virginia against representatives from the Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia and West Virginia National Guards. 

Maryland’s Spc. Daniel Reading was named the Region II Soldier of the Year, and West Virginia’s Sgt. Jefferson Gwynn was named NCO of the Year following four days of grueling challenges designed to test the competitors in a variety of ways. The pair will go on to compete at the national level. 

Despite not taking home a victory for Virginia, Stutz said the opportunity to compete at the regional level was a fulfilling one. 

“Competing within the Best Warrior has been a career highlight and humbling experience,” said Sturtz, who is assigned to the VNG’s Recruiting and Retention Battalion. “It is a reminder of the importance that basic Soldier tasks play within dominating our battlefields. I now have the ability to take what I have learned as a competitor and apply that knowledge throughout our organization.”

The first full day of the the competition was a timed stress shoot, during which the Soldiers had to fire three different weapons with weightlifting exercises in between targets. Competitors then had to showcase their knowledge of weapons, disassembling and reassembling them and performing function checks in a set amount of time. The day ended with a taxing 12-mile ruck march through steep terrain and heavy rain. 

The second full day of events began with land navigation, followed by Warrior Task station, in which Soldiers had to fix a mis-firing M240 machine gun, perform first aid on a simulated wounded Soldier and use a radio to call in an emergency aerial evacuation, all while under simulated enemy fire. From there the Soldiers were flown via a UH-60 Black Hawk to their range run event, which included a short ruck march, an obstacle course and a rope crawl across a pond. 

Other challenges included a swim event, a written exam and appearance boards. To make the competition even tougher, the Soldiers did not know which events they would be competing in until the arrived at them. 

“The entire experience of being a Best Warrior competitor is awesome because it encourages others to go out and get after challenges while pushing my personal boundaries,” said Sturtz. “The toughest aspect of competing is knowing that in order to win, you have to be the best in all categories. The majority of the categories are unknown which makes preparation challenging.”

Sturtz also encouraged any Virginia Army National Guard Soldier on the fence about competing for the state title next year to put their reservations aside and start training. 

“My advice for anyone who desires to compete at Virginia’s Best Warrior next year is to just go for it and lead your organization from the front,” said Sturtz. “It’s not about winning or losing, it is the opportunity to learn, sharpen your skills, and represent as a leader. NCO’s put a lot of time and work into making the events rewarding. We should all take advantage of their efforts.”

Virginia is scheduled to host the next Region II Best Warrior competition in 2023. 

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