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NEWS | May 26, 2023

Virginia NCO, West Virginia Soldier take top honors at Region II Best Warrior Competition

By Mike Vrabel | Virginia National Guard Public Affairs

The Virginia National Guard’s Staff Sgt. Dan Abbott and the West Virginia National Guard’s Spc. Bret Williams took top honors after the five-day Army National Guard Region II Best Warrior Competition May 15-19, 2023, at Fort Barfoot, Virginia.

Abbott, a 12N horizontal construction engineer assigned to Fort Barfoot, was named Region II Noncommissioned Officer of the Year, and Williams, a 12W carpentry and masonry specialist assigned to the 922nd Engineer Detachment, was named Region II Soldier of the Year. The West Virginia National Guard’s Staff Sgt. Avery Liller and the Pennsylvania National Guard’s Spc. Nicolas Shaffer were named runners-up in their respective categories.

Eleven ARNG NCOs and Soldiers representing Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia participated in the five-day competition, which tested their physical and mental strength, stamina and endurance over the course of various tests and challenges. 

“I have the utmost respect for these guys,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Irving Reed Jr., the Virginia Army National Guard command sergeant major. “We threw a lot of stuff at them this week and they dealt with it. I’m extremely proud of each and every one of them. Based upon what we saw, I think we’re going to be strong going to nationals. I think we’re sending two strong candidates, and who knows what might happen.”

The competition kicked off the day the Soldiers and NCOs from the region arrived at Fort Barfoot with a written exam. The next day, the competitors’ endurance was tested with a 13-mile ruck march, followed by a series of Army Warrior Tasks, which included a grenade throw, a communications test, medical and weapons proficiency tests and chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear protective gear knowledge. After the AWTs, contestants traveled to Virginia State University in Ettrick, Virginia, to conduct a combat water survival test. 

The next morning, the NCOs and Soldiers conducted a physical fitness challenge followed by a timed confidence course consisting of seven different obstacles. Later, the group tackled day and night land navigation. 

On the last two days of the event, the group competed in a timed multi-weapon challenge and conducted appearance boards before the recognition ceremony. 

Abbott, who placed first in the physical fitness challenge, the multi-weapon event, land navigation and the confidence course, said it takes more than physical prowess to be successful in this type of competition. 

“Physical preparedness was huge, and honestly, a huge part of it was mental toughness,” said Abbott. “It’s just being determined that you’re going to succeed no matter how bad it hurts. A competition that runs at this level - there’s no way that you’re going to be so physically prepared that it’s not going to break you off. These are built to break Soldiers down, that’s the whole idea.”

Williams, who finished the ruck march with the fastest time and performed strongly in the other events, credited his train-up for preparing him to win Soldier of the Year. 

“I think the best thing that helped me was the ability to get on ADOS orders before the week and really train up with my NCO,” said Williams. “He really pushed me to my limits while we trained. I did a lot of studying, physical activity and some shooting and land nav.”

Williams and Abbott both are ready to represent Region II and their respective states at the national-level competition, scheduled for July 2023 in Alaska. 

“I’m beyond excited,” said Williams. “I’m 25 years old, I’ve been in the state for 25 years, I love West Virginia, and I’m beyond excited.”

“I’m very excited,” said Abbott. “I moved to Virginia about five years ago, and I love this state. I’m very excited to go to Alaska and show them something.”

While there’s only one winner from each group, Reed said the entire field of contestants performed admirably. 

“You showed us you have that intestinal fortitude to attack these problems and give it your all,” Reed said during the recognition ceremony. “I didn’t see anyone at any event not giving it 100%. You should be proud of yourselves.”

It was the Virginia Army National Guard’s first time hosting the regional competition in several years. Reed credited the Fort Barfoot staff, led by the garrison command team of Col. James C. Shaver Jr. and Command Sgt. Maj. Rhonda Williams, along with many of the VNG’s line units, for helping organize, execute and support the competition. He gave special recognition to Command Sgt. Maj. Mical Seaton, the Virginia Army National Guard’s G3 operations command sergeant major and lead organizer of the event, and the efforts of the Fort Barfoot-based 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute, for making the competition a success. 

“I’d be remiss if I didn’t take this opportunity to thank everyone here who put this thing together,” said Reed. “Command Sgt. Maj. Seaton, who put this thing together, Lt. Col. Loy, 1st Sgt. Eley and this RTI team - they always do a great job when we come down and take over their complex. Col. Shaver and Command Sgt. Maj. Williams, they do great when we come down to Fort Barfoot. They support us in every aspect of what we need. The line units out there - they gave us everything we asked of them. It was a lot of people working behind the scenes for a long time to make this thing a success.”

See more photos of the competition at

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