BISMARCK, N.D. — North Dakota National Guard instructors recently imparted Army Soldiering skill knowledge upon four of the nation’s top Guardsmen and two Army Reservists in preparation for their respective Best Warrior competitions.
Members of North Dakota’s Pre-Mobilization Training Assistance Element (PTAE) supplied courses in Modern Army Combatives and Combat Lifesaver training to the “Best Warriors” in the North Dakota National Guard, Wyoming National Guard and Minnesota Army Reserve May 24-28.
Modern Army Combatives encompasses four levels of instruction in hand-to-hand combat. Level-one is a prerequisite for the regional Best Warrior competitions. Combat Lifesaver training, while not a required certification, is a practical skill for Soldiers to be acquainted with before competing. Participants may face tasks or questions pertaining to lifesaving proficiency, and having the certification is a critical safety measure when competing in the Best Warrior’s competition’s strenuous environment.
In order to meet training requirements in time for their upcoming events, Soldiers from Wyoming and Minnesota sought out courses that would allow them the flexibility to prepare at length before the competition.
“It was really great to get the full (Modern Army Combatives) class in the timeframe we did. It fit perfectly into our schedule,” said Sgt. Trevor Cotton, the Wyoming National Guard’s “Best Warrior” in the noncommissioned officer category and member of the organization’s 84th Civil Support Team. “It also allowed us to get to know other competitors from another state and build some camaraderie.”
Command Sgt. Maj. Gerald Miller, North Dakota state command sergeant major, said having Soldiers build relationships with other participants is part of the process involved in the competition.
“I think it’s a benefit all around,” he said. “We encourage these Warriors to socialize with other Guardsmen from their region. They are able to establish lasting friendships while still keeping that competitive edge.”
The Best Warrior competition, formerly described as the Soldier of the Year, begins at the company level and progresses through the regional and all-Guard competitions to the all-Army level, where the most elite Soldiers in the U.S. Army vie for distinction among their peers.
In North Dakota, Guardsmen are prepared for the upper-level competitions by participating at the state level. The event mimics the regional, All-Guard and All-Army competitions. Soldiers compete in an assortment of events including a physical fitness test, marksmanship, Modern Army Combatives and day and night land navigation. Participants must also face a board of sergeants major where they are dealt a barrage of questions testing their competency in Army skills and tasks as well as current events.
This year, Staff Sgt. Jason P. Lothspeich, who lives in Minneapolis and serves with North Dakota’s 817th Sapper Company, was named the Best Warrior for North Dakota’s noncommissioned officer category. In the enlisted category, Spc. Justin A. Huber, of Jud, N.D., and a member of the 191st Military Police Company, took top honors, however, runner-up Spc. Nathan J. Svihovec, of Bismarck and member of the 816th Engineer Company, will take his place in the Region Six Best Warrior competition in Fort Richardson and Fort Greely, Alaska, June 9-14.
Guardsmen from North Dakota, South Dakota, Oregon, Washington, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho and Alaska will represent their states at the Region Six competition.
Lothspeich and Svihovec had the opportunity to visit with Cotton and the Wyoming National Guard “Best Warrior” in the enlisted category, Spc. Austin Laffitte, of the 2nd Battalion, 300th Field Artillery, during last week’s training.
Minnesota Army Reserve “Best Warriors” Sgt. Marcus Caruso, of the 847th Human Resources Company, and Spc. Ronald Larson, of the 353rd Transportation Company, also were in attendance. They will compete in a separate competition for the Army Reserve in Michigan this month.
Sgt. Steve Inglish, an instructor with the PTAE, said he noticed the high-level of competency the Soldiers brought to training.
“These guys have got to be the Best Warriors in their state for a reason. They were really smart and caught on immediately. We didn’t have to go over things repeatedly,” he said.
Miller said that participants in the Best Warrior competitions have undoubtedly shown distinction in their organizations.
“On any level (of competition) these are Soldiers who have excelled amongst the best of the best,” he said. “They pour their hearts and souls into prepping for these competitions.”
Svihovec is a textbook example of the type of Soldier who takes part in the Best Warrior competition. He’s spent countless hours memorizing questions from the U.S. Army Board Study Guide and Common Task Training manual — essential literature Soldiers review for the board portion of the event. Svihovec didn’t even need to attend last week’s training. He had already been certified in both courses earlier in the year.
“I did this just to stay sharp,” he said. “It’s a good refresher before the competition.”
Equally important was Svihovec’s physical training. In addition to daily exercise, the Guardsmen filled a backpack with weights and negotiated the demanding terrain of North Dakota’s Badlands area.
“It doesn’t get much rougher in North Dakota than the Badlands … so that was good preparation,” he said.
North Dakota has had success in this event as recently as last year. Spc. Adam Walsvik, who resides in Hazen, N.D., and serves with the 188th Engineer Company (Vertical), bested his way to the national All-Guard competition in Fort Benning, Ga., after securing a first place win in the enlisted category of the Region Six competition for 2009.
If North Dakota’s “Best Warriors” are successful at the regional competition next week, they will go on to compete in the All-Guard competition at the National Guard Warrior Training Center in Fort Benning at the end of July.
High-resolution photos available on Flickr; set titled “Best Warrior Competition.”
For more information:
Guardsmen Hailed as Best Among Their Peers (March 14, 2010)
Guardsmen Named Best Warriors (Sept. 29, 2009)
Since the 2001 terrorist attacks on America, the North Dakota National Guard has mobilized more than 3,500 Soldiers and more than 1,800 Airmen in support of the Global War on Terrorism. Currently, about 600 North Dakota Guardsmen are serving overseas. With a total force of about 4,400 Soldiers and Airmen, sufficient forces remain in the state for emergency response and homeland defense.