By Pvt. Shae Cox
Utah National Guard
CAMP WILLIAMS, Utah - Best warrior competitions require a lot of preparation. Utah National Guard Soldiers Spc. Payton Hicks, who competed for Region VII Soldier of the Year, began his training several weeks in advance while his teammate, Staff Sgt. Jesse Shiner, who competed for Region VII Noncommissioned Officer of the Year, was given only a week’s notice.
The Region VII Best Warrior Competition took place July 27-28, 2020 at Camp Williams. Guardsmen from Arizona, California, Colorado, Guam, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Hawaii competed for the chance to move on to the Army National Guard BWC later this year.
The competition began with the new Army Combat Fitness Test and was followed by a military board, medical lanes, water assessment, night-and-day-land navigation, rifle zeroing and qualifications, and ended with an 11-mile ruck march.
Hicks, a cook with Group Support Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne), was given lessons and homework on different Soldier skills that could possibly be used in competition. His unit members put in the effort to help him represent them well.
“A lot of the NCOs and officers from my unit gave up personal time to come and help me prepare,” said Hicks.
Preparation for the events included mechanics, medical training, land navigation and marksmanship training.
“My unit has been a huge support, and I feel like I made them proud,” said Hicks
While Hicks had weeks to prepare, his counterpart Staff Sgt. Jesse Shiner was given just one week's notice for the competition. Shiner, from Delta, Utah, and currently working for the Utah Guard Recruiting and Retention Battalion, said he was grateful he kept up on his physical fitness.
“I am grateful to be here and win or lose, I want to enjoy the journey,” said Shiner.
Hicks felt most prepared for the ruck march on day two of the competition due to his love of long-distance running and ruck marches. The ruck march consisted of an approximately 35-pound ruck sack being carried along an 11 mile course. One of his fellow competitors said he made the event look easy.
“I am proud of myself and how I have performed the last two days,” said Hicks after placing first in the ruck march. “All the other Soldiers here have been great motivators for me to perform my very best.”
Shiner was most prepared for the medical lanes on day one, but said all the events were challenging and he was looking forward to competing in all of them.
“One step at a time, you just have to keep grinding,” said Shiner.
Hicks cited the water assessment as one of the more difficult events during the competition.
“I’ve always seen myself as a decent swimmer but my NCOs seem to think otherwise,” said Hicks. “The water assessment was definitely a challenge.”
The military board was the event Shiner said might present a challenge to him.
“It's always fun to get dressed up in your ASUs, but it's hard when they are grilling you with questions,” said Shiner.
Although neither Hicks nor Shiner won their categories in the competition, both Soldiers had some great victories during the competition and put a lot of time and effort into preparation and execution of the events placed in front of them.
“It's a whole lot of Army and a whole lot of fun. Win or lose, I just want to see how far I can push myself and what I can accomplish,” said Shiner.
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