The Nebraska Army National Guard’s Best Warrior
Competition is an annual opportunity for Nebraska Soldiers to showcase their
individual skills and talents while competing to qualify for regional and
national contests, which, in turn, can possibly elevate a Soldier’s career.
evolving, Nebraska’s Best Warrior Competition is never quite the same from year
to year. A state planning committee annually adjusts the competition to
ultimately find the state’s one Soldier and noncommissioned officer who can
best shoot, move and communicate.
it shouldn’t come as any surprise that next year’s Best Warrior Competition
will be different than the 2017 version, which was overhauled from 2016.
Probably the biggest change for the upcoming competition is the date, which
moved from early March to April 12-15, to position the state-level competition
closer to the regional competition in May.
to the state’s senior Army National Guard noncommissioned officer, the changes
are all designed to improve the overall competition and the ability of selected
Soldiers to compete with their peers.
think we have a pretty good product built, especially the support package
piece,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Marty Baker, state command sergeant major.
example, the competition used to include more than 80 different support
personnel manning each event, but the restructure has cut that number in half
and increased continuity within the planning committee.
having a small task force support the entire time, to take a little stress off
the battalions especially right before the start of (annual training) planning
season,” said Master Sgt. Chris Roemig, this year’s noncomissioned officer-in-charge.
for the 2018 event kicked off in October. Early on, the decision was made to
retain most of the structure from the previous year, while adjusting for minor
things based on previous after-action response comments. Roemig said he believes
the planning is going well, and he’s looking forward to this year’s
any military operation, what you don’t see is the important part,” Roemig said.
“There’s a lot of planning and effort that goes into it ahead of time, so when
it goes off well, that shows good credit to the support staff. The competitors
shouldn’t have a poor competition because we forgot to plan.”
of the events from last year which are being retained include hosting a full
awards banquet utilizing Nebraska’s Army culinary specialists and adjusting the
schedule for Soldiers to decompress with a social event Saturday evening before
returning home Sunday morning.
said he also hopes to keep scores secret throughout the competition to keep
participants motivated instead of discouraged based upon scoring results
following each category.
competition, said one past winner, is definitely a chance for Nebraska Soldiers
to begin making names for themselves.
competition allows you to show your unit and your state what you are capable
of,” said Hunter Smith, a senior gunner with Troop B, 1-134th Cavalry Squadron,
and last year’s Soldier of the Year winner. “And most importantly it shows you
what you can do for yourself.”
competed in the state competition last March with less than a week’s notice to
prepare. He said he wasn’t sure what to expect, but he gave each event his very
best, which ultimately allowed him to win the Soldier category.
went on to represent Nebraska in the Region V competition in May at Camp
Beauregard in Pineville, Louisiana. Battling both a knee injury and severe
cold, Smith powered through each obstacle and challenge, ultimately finishing
favorite opportunity from the regional competition was the ability to actually
talk to the state (command sergeant major) in a comfortable environment, as a
person and not as your boss,” Smith said. “The amount of knowledge you can get
from a senior NCO like that…you don’t usually get when you’re lower enlisted.”
said that’s the first thing the Best Warrior Competition offers competitors:
the opportunity to learn from and work with peers, sponsors and senior leaders,
winning the state’s competition, Smith has had a lot of new experiences, most
recently graduating from Fort Benning’s Air Assault School on Dec. 7. While
Smith said he had hoped to attend Air Assault at some point in his career, he
credits his Best Warrior title for helping to expedite the process.
competition is a good way for any Soldier who thinks they might be overlooked
to show what they are made of,” he said. “It brings good attention to the
Soldier, and to the unit for raising and training the Soldier efficiently. You
can’t just claim to be a competitor or to hold a winning title, you have to
said he’s watched many Soldiers benefit from the Best Warrior Competition,
including alums like Sgt. Calvin Koziol who won the state, regional and
national competition in 2016, and Staff Sgt. Luke Katz who won the state competition
in 2013 who then went on to graduate from the U.S. Army’s Ranger School and
then compete twice in the annual David E. Grange Jr. Best Ranger Competition.
“It just opens a lot of doors,” Baker said. “When you
have your order of merit lists, you take and you reward your Soldiers. Smith
went to Air Assault school. By winning the national competition, Koziol was
priority for Air Assault and invited to D.C. for a recognition event. And
Katz’s name is now known nationally among the Best Ranger community.”
Baker said the competition also helps with retention by
making competitors “Soldiers for Life.”
that has won the Soldier or NCO of the Year that I know of are still in,” Baker
said. “I’ve said it before that, competition breeds excellence. When you
compete because you want to, you are not just going to go through the motions.
You’re going to strive to be the absolute best.”
Roemig said unit-level competitions are in progress now,
selecting competitors for the upcoming state contest at the Greenlief Training
Site near Hastings, Nebraska. Soldiers wanting to compete should share their
interest with their chain of command.
“This year’s competition will be both physically
demanding and intellectually challenging,” Roemig said. “The goal of the
competition is to find a well-rounded Soldier who can do it all.”
Roemig, who has been involved with the competition for
nearly a decade, said he’s watched first-hand the impact it has on Soldiers and
competitors I’ve seen at the end of it have been motivated, grateful and
pleased with the opportunity to compete,” Roemig said. “Even the ones who
didn’t win come out of it with a positive experience. There is always plenty of
camaraderie that’s built between the competitors, even across the NCOs and the
Roemig said some of those interactions last for years,
and the time and interaction winners have with the state senior enlisted
leaders is invaluable for networking and potential future opportunities.
“I think it is potentially a large boost to your
career,” he said. “Maybe not always directly, but it does give you confidence
in what you’re doing, plus now you’ve interacted with senior NCOs and got some
of their mentorship and guidance as well.”
Smith said he believes all Soldiers should consider
trying to compete in the Best Warrior Competition for the experience, knowledge
and camaraderie that stems from the event.
“This is the best
opportunity the state has for Soldiers to put their name out there,” Smith
said. “It’s a gut check for individual Soldiers to see who they really are, and
it’s a really cool experience most never get to do in their career.”
Baker said the state’s contest also allows Soldiers to
showcase their skills and network on an international level, by competing
alongside Czech Republic service members invited to Nebraska as part of the
Nebraska National Guard’s State Partnership Program with the country.
“It’s a great opportunity for our Czech partners to
interact with their American counterparts in a friendly, yet competitive
environment,” Baker said.