By Sgt. 1st Class John Etheridge
Utah Army National Guard
Two Utah Soldiers won the top spots at the Region VII Best Warrior Competition hosted by the Colorado Army National Guard at Fort Carson May 17-20, 2021. The competition included the best Soldiers and noncommissioned officers from Arizona, California, Colorado, Guam, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah.
“The Colorado team did a fantastic job hosting this year. The competition was very well organized and the events were both mentally and physically challenging for the competitors enabling them to highlight their strengths and Warrior Ethos," said Sgt. Maj. Garrad Johnston from the 97th Troop Command, Utah Army National Guard.
Spc. Adam Barlow, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 65th Field Artillery Brigade, earned the title of Region VII Soldier of the Year and his counterpart, a Utah Army National Guard staff sergeant from 19th Special Forces Group (name withheld for security) was crowned NCO of theYear. They will move on to the national competition in Flagstaff, Arizona in July 2021.
“It is rare for one state to win both categories at a regional competition, so this achievement not only speaks volumes to these two warriors, but is something for the entire Utah Army National Guard family to take great pride in,” said Johnston.
The three-day competition included an oral board, written exam, essay, media interview, fitness assessment, stress shoot, day- and night-land navigation, obstacle course, medical lanes, and mystery event. The mystery event was summiting the Manitou Incline Trail which is a steep incline constructed of railroad ties that gains over 2,000 feet of elevation in less than a mile.
Both Utah winners agreed that the mystery event on the third day was the most challenging during the competition.
“Showing up already physically and mentally drained and seeing that mountain was daunting,” said Barlow.
The Special Forces staff sergeant echoed the sentiment.
“After three grueling and physically demanding days of competition, ending with the climb was extremely challenging. I felt every one of the 2,768 steps and 2,000-foot elevation change in less than a mile," he said.
Barlow said that training in all Soldier skill areas and his preparation with his teammate is what led him to success during the competition.
“To prepare for this competition, you need to make yourself a well-rounded Soldier because this gives you a better chance at representing yourself, it’s a compilation of a whole bunch of areas,” said Barlow.
The Special Forces staff sergeant said that he feels that the experience has made him a better Soldier and showed him his strengths and weaknesses.
“It's given me more experience working with others units and Soldiers. It allowed me to validate my skill sets and recognize areas that I need to improve upon," he said.
Both Soldiers said that they are excited about representing the Utah Army National Guard at the national level competition later this summer in Arizona.
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