Nine Wyoming Army National Guard soldiers gave it their all during three days, pushing themselves to the limits in the state’s Best Warrior Competition. In the end, two were crowned winners after a series of tests April 12-14 at Camp Guernsey.
Spc. Clay Schaffner and Staff Sgt. Alex Goldfarb topped their respective fields, also earning the titles of Soldier of the Year and Noncommissioned Officer of the Year, respectively, not to mention bragging rights for their units. Their reward? Depending on their personal schedule, the two may travel to Devil’s Lake, North Dakota May 6-10 to face fellow Guard soldiers in Region 6—Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota and Alaska.
“Last year Spc. Wyatt Schiermeyer (of the 133rd Engineer Company) went to (the regional competition in) Alaska,” said Wyoming’s State Command Sgt. Maj. Harold Pafford, explaining this year’s focus. “He was a runner up and missed winning the whole competition by two points. That soldier got to the weapons station and didn’t have any experience on the Mk 19. No fault to the soldier, we didn’t set him up for success like we should have. So that’s why we’re doing what we’re doing this year.”
According to Master Sgt. Darryl Jackson, one of the senior NCO facilitators, the competition has changed. The state conducted paper boards in recent years and this year switched things up with a face-to-face board. “The paper competition was our method to get soldiers identified so that we could send them to the next step based on reviews from the sergeants major,” Jackson said. “Now we have decided that the paper board doesn’t give the opportunity to do the hands-on pieces that you would do at the competition itself. So, with this new methodology, it will give our soldiers the best chance of competing at the regionals, and give them a leg up.”
The nine soldiers were split into two groups.
Pvt. Jalyn McDaniel of A Battery 2-300 Field Artillery Battalion; Pfc. Dominic Vasquez of C Company, 1st Battalion, 297th Infantry Regiment; and Spc. Walter Teepe of G Company, 2nd Battalion, 211th Aviation; and Schaffner of the 133rd Engineer Company were among the junior enlisted warriors.
Sgt. Bryan Barry of the 133rd Engineer Company; Sgt. Michael Bissey, A Battery, 2-300 Field Artillery Battalion; Sgt. Joseph Denevan, 960th Brigade Support Battalion; Staff Sgt. Joey Redzich, C Company, 1st Battalion, 297th Infantry Regiment; and Goldfarb of G Company, 2nd Battalion, 211th Aviation rounded out the field of NCOs.
All of the competitors wound their way through several events: land navigation; first aid; a six-mile road march carrying a heavy ruck; an oral board which tested Army knowledge; and a physical fitness test. Soldiers also wrote essays given assigned topics. The junior enlisted soldiers wrote about the merits of physical fitness. For the NCOs, it was discipline, and the role it plays in the Guard.
And don’t forget weapons—plenty of them. Soldiers assembled and disassembled the M2 .50-caliber machine gun; Mk 19 grenade launcher; M240B machine gun; and M249 Squad Automatic Weapon. They also pulled the triggers on Army mainstays the M16 rifle and M9 pistol.
When getting ready for the competition, Schaffner spent time studying with Schiermeyer last year’s regional competitor.
After the competition, Schaffner said he’s looking forward to the possibility of going to regionals. “I am excited for the overall experience, seeing the other soldiers in the region. Schiermeyer said it’s the coolest thing he’s ever done. And the challenge is going to be good for me.”
Goldfarb expressed similar sentiments. He said, “The competition went great, this needs to keep happening every year. I think that the events were good, the selection was good. I really enjoyed the competition and I’m pretty happy I came.”
Cpl. Mikailla Brownfield, 197th Public Affairs Detachment, contributed to this report.