An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

NEWS | June 4, 2022

Two Utah Soldiers awaken "Warrior Spirit" at Region VII Best Warrior Competition

By Staff Sgt. Jordan Hack

A Soldier’s transformation into a warrior is difficult to describe. Hand-picked by leadership, proving themselves with every drop of sweat, every sore muscle, and every labored breath; Soldiers who compete naturally don the title of Best Warrior for their unit, regardless of whether they win. It’s called the Best Warrior Competition for a reason. A fitting title, each iteration features a gathering of the best asset the Army has to offer—the warrior. Winners are awarded the honor of moving on, but being chosen to compete in the first place is, in itself, a great accomplishment that commands respect.

Seven different states, including Utah, and the territory of Guam sent their strongest, fittest, most capable Soldiers to compete in the Region VII Best Warrior Competition on the island of Guam, May 23-26, 2022. The competition crowned a new Soldier-of-the-Year and Non-Commissioned-Officer-of-the-Year for the region.

The Utah Army National Guard sent Cpl. Spencer Fayles with the 144th Area Support Medical Company, and Staff Sgt. Jackson Fagan with the Utah National Guard Recruiting and Retention Battalion as this year’s representatives.

Fayles placed first in the Soldier-of-the-Year category, while Fagan placed fourth in the NCO-of-the-Year category.

Leading the pack following the mystery event, Fayles was nothing but humble regarding his winning performance.

“I've been surrounded by people better than me all the way leading up to this, who trained me and helped me and put a lot of effort into me,” said Fayles. “Master Sgt. Baker, Staff Sgt. White, they were there with me and helped me every step of the way. I wouldn't be here without them.”

Participants competed in a host of activities during the competition testing many key skills, proficiencies, and physical fitness abilities.

Monday morning, the Soldiers put their physical fitness on display early during the Army Combat Fitness Test. The ACFT features six events designed to simulate situations a Soldier would likely face in combat. The events included deadlift, standing-power throw, hand-release pushup, sprint-drag-carry, plank, and two-mile run.

Later in the day, they were put through a grueling obstacle course and stress-shoot lanes. It was a very hot and humid day on the island as well, making everything extra tough on the competitors.

“Through all of those events it was obvious that our competitors had done a significant amount of preparation and were ready for the challenges that the rest of the week was going to present,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Spencer Nielsen, senior enlisted leader, Utah National Guard.

“Although I was obviously pulling for the Utah Army National Guard competitors, something that I am always impressed by is the quality of the Soldiers and NCOs competing. Watching and participating in the Best Warrior Competitions is always inspiring and humbling to me.”

Tuesday morning, the competitors wielded a map and compass to complete a four-hour, land-navigation course. They continued to showcase their knowledge of weapon systems, radio communication, and combat medical response that afternoon during the eight-station Army Warrior Tasks event. Most of the tasks involved the proper handling and knowledge of specific weapon systems. The Soldiers had limited time to clear, disassemble, and reassemble weapons such as the M4 carbine, M249 squad automatic weapon, M240B medium machine gun, and Mark 19 grenade machine gun–all weapons they are likely to encounter when deployed in a combat-ready zone.

Wednesday brought the Soldiers indoors for the day. Looking sharp wearing the Army Service Uniform, each Soldier and NCO was graded on proper uniform wear, composure under pressure in front of a command sergeants major board, and ability to write a 500-word essay.

Throughout the day, each competitor also sat down with the Guam Army National Guard Public Affairs Officer, Cpt. Mark Scott, to discuss their experiences.

Fagan shared an ancient Native American quote, which he said summarizes the character of each competitor and why they competed. The quote reads, “When the warrior within you awakens, you will no longer fear death. You will realize that a person can kill your body, but they can never kill your soul.”

He went on to say, “that’s what it takes to be a best warrior–when you have a strong heart, you’re willing to give it all.”

It turned out that every competitor needed to hear that quote that day, as Thursday brought the culminating mystery event–the competition finale.

Many people don’t realize that Guam is home to the tallest mountain on Earth. That’s including below sea level because the 1,332-foot Mount Lamlam also extends down the Mariana Trench. For the pinnacle event, the competitors hiked to the top of Mount Lamlam. The nearly 10-mile event started with a two-mile swim from Coco’s Island to the main island, immediately followed by a six-mile uphill ruck march.

Fayles, reflecting on the event at the top of the mountain, said it was brutal.
“It was challenging. It was awesome. This one from the island was tough and then followed by that ruck in this heat. Super challenging.”

Challenging as it was, both Utah Soldiers conquered it all, ultimately earning the respect of the staff and every competitor.

Fagan expressed it was a humbling experience representing his family.
“It's not for me. It's for them,” he said. “I want to be the best father and husband that I can be and just represent them well, make them proud so that one day they'll be able to look up to their dad and just be proud.”

Nielsen likes what he sees in the up-and-coming generation of warriors.

“The takeaway I always have is that the future of the Army is in good hands, and the next generation of senior leaders are competent, motivated, and professional.”

Fayles moves on to the national competition, and both Soldiers have every reason to be proud of their accomplishments. They have solidified their spot in the small ring of National Guard best warriors.




Your Career Starts Here

Utah National Guard members repel with the help of their civilian counterparts during a Utah National Guard FEMA Region VIII Homeland Response Force training exercise on Camp Williams, Utah, Nov. 5, 2022. The event featured multiagency interoperability training for the Utah National Guard and civilian partner agencies to provide initial and follow-on care to stranded and injured citizens in the event of a natural or human-caused emergency. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Alejandro Lucero)
Utah National Guard Hosts Multi-Agency Disaster Response Exercise
By Capt. Megan Tidwell | Nov. 5, 2022
The Utah National Guard’s Domestic Operations Office; in conjunction with the state of Utah Emergency Operation Center, Division of Emergency Management, conducted a multi-agency training event at Camp Williams in Bluffdale,...

Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve presented the Seven Seals and Patriot Awards to select civic leaders at a ceremony on Oct. 26, 2022. Gov. Spencer Cox received both the ESGR’s Seven Seals Award and the Patriot Award. Mr. Gary Harter, executive director for the Utah Department of Veterans and Military Affairs, and Mr. Jon Pierpont, chief of staff to the governor and former executive director of the Utah Department of Workforce Services, also received the ESGR Seven Seals Award.
ESGR Presented Awards to Civic Leaders
By Maj. Chris Kroeber | Oct. 27, 2022
Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve presented the Seven Seals and Patriot Awards to select civic leaders at a ceremony on Wednesday. Gov. Spencer Cox received both the ESGR’s Seven Seals Award and the Patriot Award. Mr...

Sgt. Maurice Manns II with the 204th Maneuver  Enhancement Brigade, emerges for a breath during the swimming portion of the German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge , conducted at Camp Williams, Utah Oct. 16, 2022. This year’s competition offers an opportunity for competitors to earn the German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge. The Utah National Guard Best Warrior Competition is an annual event that brings together Soldiers and Airmen from the major commands to compete for the title of Soldier/Airman-of-the-Year, Noncommissioned Officer-of-the-Year and Senior NCO-of-the-Year. The Army winners of this competition will represent the Utah Army National Guard at the Region VII Best Warrior Competition next spring.  (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Ariel J. Solomon)
UTNG Best Warrior Competition Presents Top Competitors
By Spc. Shae Cox | Oct. 24, 2022
Twenty-three Soldiers and Airmen battled mental and physical challenges as they competed for the title of Soldier/Airman of the Year, Noncommissioned Officer of the Year, and Senior NCO of the Year, during the Utah National...

The Utah National Guard Honor Guard conducts Funeral Honors for the surviving family of U.S. Army Air Corps Sgt. Elvin L. Phillips, an Airman who was killed 79 years ago during World War II. Family from several states, friends, first responders, and service members gathered to render respect during the funeral at Utah Veterans Cemetery & Memorial Park in Bluffdale, Utah, Oct. 11, 2022. (U.S. Army National Guard Photo by Staff Sgt. Jordan Hack)
Utah Honor Guard Provides Funeral Honors for WWII Airman
By Staff Sgt. Jordan Hack | Oct. 13, 2022
Soldiers and Airmen in the Utah National Guard Honor Guard conducted funeral honors for Phillips at Utah Veterans Cemetery & Memorial Park in Bluffdale, Utah, Oct. 11, 2022. Family, friends, other service members, and first...

Gov. Spencer J. Cox and Maj. Gen. Michael J. Turley conduct a pass and review during the 67th annual Governor’s Day at Camp Williams, Utah, Sept. 24, 2022. The humvee is driven by Sgt. Spencer Fayles with the 144th Area Support Medical Company, the 2022 All-Guard National Soldier of the Year. The time-honored tradition of Governor’s Day has been celebrated by the Utah National Guard since 1954 and allows the governor to inspect and speak to his troops. (U.S. Army Photo by Staff Sgt. Ariel J. Solomon)
Utah National Guard celebrates 67th Governor’s Day after two year hiatus
By Capt. Megan Tidwell | Sept. 26, 2022
Utah National Guard Airmen and Soldiers celebrated the 67th annual Governor’s Day after a two-year hiatus Sept. 24, 2022, at Camp Williams, Utah...

Soldiers from the 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne) arrive at Dugway Proving Ground in support of an agile combat employment joint exercise on Sept. 8, 2022. This joint force exercise incorporates more than six military’s entities across three branches creating innovative operational concepts to allow quick response to an ever-changing wartime horizon. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Danny Whitlock)
Utah Air National Guard Completes Joint Agile Combat Employment Exercise
By Master Sgt. Colton Elliott | Sept. 8, 2022
As the Department of the Air Force continues to prioritize Agile Combat Employment , Airmen from the 151st Air Refueling Wing conducted its first joint Multi-Capable Airmen exercise at Dugway Proving Ground, Utah on Sept. 8,...

Approximately 10 Soldiers from Target Acquisition Platoon, Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 65th Field Artillery Brigade, “America’s Thunder,”  are recognized during a departure ceremony Sept. 1, 2022, in the Scott Lundell Readiness Center auditorium at Camp Williams, Utah. The Soldiers will deploy in support of Operation Enduring Freedom under U.S. Africa Command.
Soldiers from the Utah National Guard’s 65th Field Artillery Brigade deploy in support of Operation Enduring Freedom
By Ileen Kennedy | Sept. 2, 2022
Approximately 10 Soldiers from Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 65th Field Artillery Brigade, “America’s Thunder,” will deploy in support of Operation Enduring Freedom under U.S. Africa Command. The Target Acquisition...

Brig. Gen. Joseph Green, assistant adjutant general, Utah National Guard shares his experience involving hardships and explains how trauma impacts Guard units and families. Green said although he understands some obstacles may hinder the SAPR and VA mission, he is always available to support Utah Guard members.
UTNG SAPR program brings sexual assault awareness through prevention and education efforts
By Staff Sgt. Ashley Ellison | Aug. 26, 2022
The Utah National Guard Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program hosted two three-day leadership summits at the Provo Marriott Hotel and Conference Center, July 25-28, and Aug. 23-25, 2022. More than 50 UTNG Soldiers...

A Soldier from the 142nd Military Intelligence Battalion engages an adversary as a part of an Oleoresin Capsicum or OC spray qualification event during an evaluation exercise, Aug. 20-21, 2022, for the Utah National Guard Response Force in Salt Lake CIty, Utah. During the OC spray qualification, a trainee gets sprayed in the eyes with OC and must engage two adversaries using baton techniques and drag a simulated casualty to safety. The NGRF is a quick response security force composed of Utah National Guard Soldiers designed to augment law enforcement when directed by the governor. The NGRF is comprised of approximately 300 Soldiers primarily from the 142nd MI. (U.S. Army photo by 1st Sgt. John Etheridge)
142nd MI Battalion conducts evaluation exercise for National Guard Response Force
By 1st Sgt. John Etheridge | Aug. 25, 2022
The 142nd Military Intelligence Battalion, 300th MI Brigade, conducted an evaluation exercise Aug. 20-21, 2022, for the Utah National Guard Response Force at the North Salt Lake Armory. During the exercise, Soldiers of the...

Col. Paul Peters (center) relinquishes command of the 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne) by passing the unit colors first to Command Sgt. Maj. Dennis Riggs (left), who then passed it to Col. Brian “Tony” Pazzaglia (right), during a change-of-command ceremony held at the Aaron R. Butler Readiness Center on Camp Williams, Utah, Aug. 20, 2022. Change-of-command ceremonies are a time-honored military tradition to mark the formal transfer of authority and responsibility from one unit commander to another. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Jacob Jesperson/Released)
“I Promise You Unwavering Devotion”: Col. Pazzaglia Assumes Command of 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne).
By Staff Sgt. Nathaniel Free | Aug. 22, 2022
Col. Paul Peters relinquished command of the 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne) to Col. Brian “Tony” Pazzaglia during a change-of-command ceremony held at the Aaron R. Butler Readiness Center on Camp Williams, Utah, Aug...