Ariz. Guard’s best soldiers are put to the test

Ariz. Guard’s best soldiers are put to the test

Soldiers from across Arizona compete in the 2016 Best Warrior Competition April 2 at Florence Military Reservation. Soldiers were tested on basic soldier skills to include proper radio assembly, weapons malfunctions and marksmanship.

FLORENCE, Ariz.–Arizona Army National Guard Soldiers representing the best from their respective units gathered at Florence Military Reservation April 2-3 to compete to be the best junior enlisted, noncommissioned officer and first sergeant at this year’s best warrior competition.

Three first sergeants, nine NCOs and 11 junior enlisted Soldiers were tested in a wide variety of basic Soldier tasks under the Arizona sun and on the dry and sparse landscape that makes up FMR.

Between each event, Soldiers had to navigate through the rocky, hilly desert terrain with temperatures that climbed in to the 90s. 

The Soldiers were loaded down with the gear they needed for the subsequent tasks and had to carry this load from one point to the next. Sweat was already forming on the brow of some Soldiers at the beginning of the ruck marching.

“They’re tested to the max out here,” said Sgt. 1st Class Barry Kiel, the NCO overseeing the events created for the competition.

Soldiers competed in a wide variety of tasks – everything from basic marksmanship, radio operations, assembly and disassembly of machine guns to basic medical skills, map reading and land navigation. 

“It all begins with heart and it [leads] to personal courage to overcome many of these obstacles … it really allows the Soldiers to look deep within themselves and overcome what they may have thought was impossible,” Kiel said.

Sgt. Erin Buzani, a transportation operator with the 1404th Transportation Company, was one of the competitors for the title of NCO of the Year.

“These kinds of competitions provide an opportunity for other Soldiers to see that we are competing … but we can also come together and fight for one another in stressful situations,” Buzani said.

That is what these Soldiers did; If a Soldier fell behind they would motivate each other keep going.

“I work hard every day to improve myself and the military is one of those ways that I’ve done that,” Buzani said. “This competition helps us be better for one another.”

Each Soldier and NCO had a sponsor, or experienced mentor, who helped them prepare for the competition and provided motivation and support during events. 

Sgt. 1st Class Rolando Torres Diaz, a recruiting and retention NCO with the Recruiting and Retention Battalion, who was competing for the title of NCO of the year, had last year’s state and regional winner in his corner. 

“Having Staff Sgt. Zapata as my sponsor was a great deal of [positive] influence; he was last year’s winner for the state and regionals,” Torres Diaz said. “Seeing the level of intricacy and high degree of competition helped me prepare for this quite well.”

In the end, Torres Diaz said it was more about knowing one’s self in order to decide if you can compete with the best.

“You have to have that internal drive, you have to ask yourself if you’re good enough, can you cut it,” he said.

The Arizona Army National Guard will announce the winners of the Best Warrior Competition April 30 at the third annual Outstanding Soldiers and Airmen of the year banquet. Those winners will go on to competition against the best warriors from six other states at the Region VII Best Warrior Competition hosted here later this year.