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Md. Army Guard Soldiers compete in Regional Best Warrior Competition

By 1st Lt. Dylan Bradford

BLACKSTONE, Va. – Two Maryland Army National Guard members were among the top 11 Soldiers and non-commissioned officers from Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Washington D.C. who competed in the intense five-day Region II Best Warrior Competition at Fort Barfoot, Virginia, May 15-19, 2023.

Staff Sgt. Chase Stewart of the 629th Military Intelligence Battalion and Spc. Adam Merton of the 29th Military Police Company represented Maryland as the top non-commissioned officer and Soldier of the year after winning their state competition in March.

“It’s an incredible learning opportunity,” said Stewart. “There are so many tangible and intangible things that come out of doing a competition like this, I just can’t recommend it enough.”

After the first day of in-processing, the competition kicked off with a timed 13-mile ruck march, where the competitors were forced to don their gas masks after a simulated chemical attack. Competitors also got their feet wet when they were faced with several low water crossings early on in the event, all while they carried 35 lbs on their backs.

Upon completion of the march, they were transported by helicopter to a training site where they were tested on their ability to treat a combat casualty, disassemble and reassemble weapons, assemble and utilize radio equipment, quickly don protective chemical warfare equipment, and throw grenades.

“The competition helped me improve my warrior tasks,” said Merton. “I can now assist my fellow Soldiers that might be struggling back in my unit. My motivation to compete was to better myself and in doing so better my fellow Soldiers.”

The competitors also experienced the Combat Water Survival Test, which required them to jump boots-first into a pool, swim in their heavy uniform, and successfully remove their equipment underwater before being able to exit.

On the third day, competitors conducted an early morning physical fitness challenge, which involved several exercises present in the Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT). Later they competed for the fastest time on an obstacle course as well as day and night land navigation.

“My advice to anyone considering it is to just do it, even if you don’t think you’re ready,” said Stewart. “Nobody thinks they’re ready for it until they’re in it. And then you just do it, and you get through it. It’s a challenge to do the hard things which is very rewarding.”

On the fourth day, competitors engaged in a timed multi-gun event where they engaged targets at long range before descending by rope from a rooftop while eliminating targets with their sidearm. Before it was over, the competitors had engaged dozens of targets at various ranges with rifles, shotguns, and pistols, all with smiles on their faces.

To finish the competition on the fifth day, competitors prepared their dress uniforms and stood before a board of senior non-commissioned officers, who inspected their appearance and questioned them on army topics.

Virginia National Guard Staff Sgt. Dan Abbott and West Virginia National Guard’s Spc. Bret Williams were announced as the winners of the competition and will go on to compete at the National Guard level in Alaska later this year.

Senior non-commissioned officers from Maryland were present to cheer on and provide support to our competitors, including Maryland Army National Guard State Command Sgt. Maj. David Harry.

“I can’t tell you how proud I was to watch our guys compete,” said Harry. “The Best Warrior Competition is such an incredible event because it lets Soldiers do the things they signed up to do. We all have different career paths that we navigate in our specialty. However, we all joined to challenge ourselves, physically and mentally, and ‘be all you can be’. It’s an experience they will never forget.”

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