First Time: Oregon Airmen try out for Army Competition

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Jefferson Thompson
  • 173rd Fighter Wing

The Best Warrior Competition is billed as the premier competition for the U.S. Army according to the national website, testing warrior skills ranging from urban warfare simulations, physical challenges as well as written and verbal exams.

For the state of Oregon this year is a little different, the Oregon Army National Guard extended the invitation to members of the Air National Guard to join the competition for the first time.

The competition is grueling and takes place over three days at Camp Rilea near Astoria on the Oregon Coast. In 2016 the event started with an eight-and-a-half mile run and included an “Omaha Beach” event where competitors dressed in full battle rattle, defined as the maximum amount of gear a Soldier can reasonably carry, waded into the ocean surf and then carried heavy ammunition cans from the water to the top of the steep dunes lining the beach simulating what WWII Soldiers were forced to do.

Another event includes “Pandora’s Box” where various weapons are disassembled and placed in a box, and while wearing a blindfold a Soldier attempts to reassemble the weapons in under 10 minutes. These rigorous physical challenges are interspersed with mental challenges as well, such as land navigation using a compass, and often the last item at the end of the competition is an oral interview completed in a state of exhaustion.

Because these challenges are not part of the routine training for the Air Force, Senior Master Sgt. Ross Hawkins designed a local competition at Kingsley Field to choose two candidates to represent the Air National Guard at the state-level event.

“Since we have two slots here for Kingsley Field we decided to have a tryout competition of our own to select the best NCO and the best Airman,” said Hawkins. “It’s essentially elements they do at the Best Warrior Competition, distilled down into one day.”

Their day started with the standard Army Physical Fitness Test, which requires a male between 17-21 years to do a minimum of 35 push-ups, 47 sit-ups and run two miles in under 16:36. Then the members moved to the range for the aforementioned Pandora’s Box, weapons qualification, a military history quiz, and some additional PT with a lot of burpees and calisthenics.

“It’s tough on them; they are hurting and we just wanted to make sure they are able to push through and get past that,” said Hawkins just after competitors finished a 7.5-mile march with a 35-pound pack on. “This is a pretty serious event, and we wanted to test the competitors and make sure that they had the right mind-set and the right heart to get through it.”

After completing the road march the Airmen undertook a less physically but significantly more mentally challenging test with land navigation using only a compass and given distance and direction. This required competitor to count their steps along the bearing to reach a certain point, where they would find a new bearing and distance. If they successfully found all of their points in this fashion they would be done in under two hours.

However, their day was far from over because the next challenge they faced was the Marine Corps Combat Fitness Test consisting of a half-mile sprint, two-minute ammo can lift from shoulder height to full-arm-extension, and a maneuver-under-fire agility test.

At this point the six competitors thought they were done, but like any good test this was a false summit.  They were then told their final test would require them to road-march the four miles back to base while carrying heavy ammunition containers.

After a day that began at 4 a.m. they arrived back at base twelve hours later for a barbecue and winner’s announcement. The competitors included Airman 1st Class David Garcia, Senior Airmen Daniel Fry and Manny Diaz, Staff Sgt. James Lockrem, and Tech. Sgts. Dallas Thies and Jared Boyer. Of those six Garcia and Boyer were selected to represent Kingsley Field as the state level Best Warrior Competition this summer.