by Sgt. Michaela C.P. Granger, 116th Public Affairs Detachment
Seventeen Soldiers from the North Dakota National Guard competed in North Dakota's 2021 Best Warrior Competition (BWC) August 13-16, 2020 at Camp Grafton Training Center near Devils Lake, N.D. “The Best Warrior Competition takes character, confidence and commitment,” said State Command Sgt. Maj. Derek J. Heck. BWC challenges each Soldier to prove their military knowledge and strength and matches it against that of their fellow Soldiers in scenarios that replicate battlefield situations. Over the four days, N.D. Soldiers challenged themselves to prove that they were the best warrior in the state.
On the first day of BWC, the Soldiers competed in the Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT) to evaluate their stamina and strength. The ACFT consists of six events including a deadlift, standing power throws, and finishes with a two-mile run. The test is meant to mimic the physical endurance necessary for a soldier to go into combat situations.
The competitors wore their Army Service Uniforms (ASU) for the remaining day’s events. The Soldiers examined an ASU for discrepancies and had their own uniform inspected. Their ability to speak clearly was tested with an on-camera interview. The final events were a written exam and formal board interviews, comprised of a series of questions related to military knowledge.
The Guardsmen completed a night and day land-navigation course on the second day, starting at 3:30 a.m. and again at 7:00 a.m. The competitors had to find markers using only printed maps and their orientation equipment. The day event was cut short due to dangerous weather conditions and the soldiers moved on to weapons firing, three gun shoot, firing an M320 grenade launcher, a 6-mile ruck march, and a mystery event consisting of assembling a saw gun while wearing a gas mask.
“I think everyone did an excellent job, the motivation was great and the comradery was awesome,” said competitor Spc. Andrew Doss of Det 1, 191st Military Police Company. “I’m not going to sugarcoat it, it kind of sucked in the beginning. But as the weekend went on, it became more fun. It was really motivating.”
The remaining two days were dedicated to challenging their military fortitude, starting with situational training exercise (STX) lanes. The lanes tested the competitors’ abilities to perform a number of warrior tasks and battle drills ranging from hand grenade throwing to rebuilding a radio.
The final day of the competition, the soldiers rappelled down the side of the forty-foot tower and raced through a confidence course.
The Soldiers were graded on each event and on the final day, their overall scores were compiled to select the best warrior in the state for 2021. Sgt. Brandon Wendland of the 957th Engineer Company won the title of State Best Warrior in the Noncommissioned Officer (NCO) category and Doss won in the Soldier category. Both soldiers showed outstanding determination when faced with the challenges presented by the demanding event.
“It feels good to win the competition,” said Wendland. He had previously competed in the lower enlisted category and returned three years later to compete as an NCO. His leadership helped him prepare for the competition in the months leading up to it. “I’m glad to be back,” he said, “I had really good leadership in my unit who had been through the competition before that helped me prepare.”