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FORT MCCOY, Wis. — Before sunrise tomorrow morning, 14 Wisconsin Army National Guard Soldiers will take part in the opening events of a grueling three-day gauntlet that is the Best Warrior Competition. The demanding competition will measure each Soldier’s physical fitness and stamina, marksmanship, land navigation, Soldier skills, military bearing and composure.

These Soldiers — representing the 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 64th Troop Command, 157th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, 426th Regional Training Institute and the Wisconsin Army National Guard Recruiting and Retention Battalion — are competing for the prestige of being the Wisconsin Army National Guard’s Best Warrior and Best Noncommissioned Officer. Winners will advance to compete against their peers from six other states at next month’s regional Best Warrior Competition, also held at Fort McCoy this year.

“The Best Warrior Competition gives our high-performing and highly motivated Soldiers the ability to compete with, and against, the best Soldiers throughout Wisconsin,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Rafael Conde, the Wisconsin Army National Guard’s top enlisted leader. “It tests their ability to perform difficult and challenging tasks in adverse situations. It tests not only their physical abilities, but their mental stamina.”

Conde anticipated a strongly contested competition.

“All of these Soldiers are winners through their various organizations, and they all have shown their tremendous ability to compete at a high level,” he said. “They are all great Warrior athletes.”

The competition at Fort McCoy is not open to the public, but the public can follow live updates on the Wisconsin National Guard Facebook page, as well as photos from each day of the competition on the Wisconsin National Guard Flickr site.

Best Warrior competitors include:
32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team: Spc. Erick Guzman, Company B, 173rd Brigade Engineer Battalion (Onalaska); Spc. Austen Jahnke, Company A, 1st Battalion, 128th Infantry (Menomonie); Sgt. Clayton Smith, Detachment 1, Headquarters Battery, 1st Battalion, 120th Field Artillery (Berlin); Sgt. Daniel Sward, Troop A, 1st Squadron, 105th Cavalry (Fort Atkinson); Spc. Jason Wagner, Detachment 1, Headquarters Battery, 1st Battalion, 120th Field Artillery (Berlin).
64th Troop Command: Spc. Colton Babb, 107th Forward Support Company (Sparta); Sgt. David Kittel, 1158th Transportation Company (Beloit); Spc. Michael Spielvogel, 1157th Transportation Company (Oskhosh); Spc. Blake Stoss, Company D, 1st Battalion, 147th Aviation (Madison).
157th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade: Sgt. Jonathan Hitchcock, Detachment 1, 829th Engineer Company, 724th Engineer Battalion (Richland Center); Pfc. Michael Kral, Headquarters Company, 157th MEB (Milwaukee); Sgt. Joshua Long, Company A, 257th Brigade Support Battalion (Whitewater); Spc. Marguerite Zaepfel, Company A, 257th Brigade Support Battalion (Whitewater).
426th Regional Training Institute/Wisconsin Recruiting and Retention Battalion: Sgt. Curtis Bluel, Headquarters Detachment, 426th RTI (Fort McCoy).