JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska –
The Virginia National Guard’s Staff Sgt. Dan Abbott, a 12N horizontal construction engineer assigned to Fort Barfoot, competed in the 2023 Army National Guard Best Warrior Competition, hosted by the Alaska National Guard, July 8 - 13, 2023, at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.
Abbott, representing the Virginia National Guard and Region II as Noncommissioned Officer of the Year, competed with six other NCOs and seven Soldiers over a series of physically and mentally demanding tasks at the installation just outside of Anchorage, Alaska. At the competition’s conclusion, the Wyoming National Guard’s Spc. Luke Harrison and the South Dakota National Guard’s Sgt. Bailey Ruff were named Army National Guard Soldier and NCO of the Year.
Three other competitors were chosen to join Harrison and Ruff to compete at the U.S. Army’s Best Squad Competition later in 2023, and Abbott was chosen as an alternative for that squad, along with two other NCOs.
The competition featured 25 events over the course of a week, to include marksmanship, obstacle courses, fitness tests, a ruck march, interviews and written examinations. Some events, including a rowing challenge, allowed the NCO and Soldier from each region to work together instead of individually.
“They’re building that cohesiveness that is essential to winning and winning matters to the Army,” said Command Sgt. Maj. John Raines, the command sergeant major of the Army National Guard. “You must be a cohesive team to win and be proficient in all your battle drills and individual Soldier tasks. All those things feed into the collective tasks and our mission essential tasks enable us to destroy the enemy, which is our piece of the joint fight.”
To reach the national-level competition, Abbott first beat out other NCOs in the Virginia National Guard during the state-level competition held at Fort Barfoot in March 2023. Abbott went on to claim the title of Region II NCO of the Year during the regional competition in May 2023, also held at Fort Barfoot, beating out NCOs from Maryland, Washington D.C., Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Delaware.
During the regional competition, Abbott placed first in multiple events, including the physical fitness challenge, the multi-weapon event, land navigation and the confidence course. After the competition, Abbott said that mental preparation was just as important as physical training.
“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.”
Abbott’s Region II partner, Soldier of the Year Spc. Bret Williams of the West Virginia National Guard, also competed in the national competition, performing well enough to be selected for the Best Squad Competition later this year. Along with Abbott and the other alternates, the top five will train at the Warrior Training Center at Fort Moore, Georgia, in preparation for the squad competition.