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Washington National Guard vie for Best Warrior title

Citizen soldiers compete to be the best at Camp Murray and Joint Base Lewis-McChord

While Sgt. Robert Kendrick holds a corner, Spc. Josh Beal tosses a grenade into a building during the Washington Army National Guard Best Warrior Competition held last week at JBLM. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

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Purple smoke enveloped Sgt. Robert Kendricks and Spc. Josh Beal as they approached Building 70.

Their mission was to move tactically in an urban environment, use grenades to neutralize enemy positions, communicate and clear the building.

All the while being watched by experienced soldiers holding stopwatches and clipboards.

As the two soldiers worked, simulated gunfire and artillery rounds only added to the stress they faced as they moved from the building to another.

"The competition has clearly been stepped up since last year," Kendricks said after completing the mission. "It is definitely a great learning experience. I can't emphasize that enough; we learn so much from this experience."

Kendricks was one of almost a dozen-and-a-half Washington Army National Guard (WAARNG) soldiers competing Saturday morning to be named "Best Warrior."

>>> Soldiers competing in the Washington Army National Guard Best Warrior Competition receive a briefing before using grenades in an urban environment. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

The Guard's Best Warrior Competition is open to all soldiers. At the end of the four-day competition, the best non-commissioned officer and the best lower enlisted soldier will go on to the next level of competition.

The challenges include Army aptitude tests, urban warfare simulations, ruck marches, night and day land navigations, marksmanship, a physical fitness test, weapons assembly, swimming, a written exam and a board interview.

"It is intense," Staff Sgt. John Hall said as he grabbed a bite to eat. "Everyone here knows how tough this competition is."

The competition was held at Camp Murray and Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Barr, Washington Army National Guard, commented on the physical and mental demands placed on his enlisted soldiers.

"They face the physical discomforts and may want to quit; they have got to face that and then drive through it. It is not easy."

Twenty-two soldiers entered the competition to see who would emerge as the best. That number had dwindled to 15.

"These soldiers all want to be ‘that guy,' the one who did his best and came out on top," Barr said.

The two top WAARNG soldiers will advance to regional competition later this year in South Dakota.

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