First Time: 173rd FW Airmen join Soldiers in Best Warrior competition

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

For the first time two Oregon Air National Guardsmen competed in the Oregon Army National Guard’s Best Warrior Competition in late August 2018.

This is the first year the competition was opened to the Army’s sister service, and Tech. Sgt. Jared Boyer and Senior Airman David Garcia, both with the 173rd Fighter Wing, were able to join the Soldiers at Camp Rilea, near Warrenton Ore., for the grueling competition and experience what skills the U.S. Army prizes in its Soldiers.

“I really did it to test myself—it was a personal challenge,” says Senior Airman David Garcia, a security forces Airman.

He describes the hardest part for him personally is pushing through the moment when he started to feel like, “I don’t want to be here anymore.”

He said that moment arrived when he was low-crawling through a maze of razor wire trying to avoid the clouds of CS (tear) gas from canisters placed around the obstacle.

“Someone threw a canister and it sprayed me right in the face,” which causes him to cough so violently he can get physically ill. “I’m really sensitive to it, but the best way to get out of there is to hurry-up and finish,” he says.

He completed that section and was ready to move on.   As it turned out, Garcia said that was the hardest part of the whole ordeal and both he and Tech. Sgt. Jared Boyer finished all the other events.

While neither of them won the competition outright, they both performed well enough to win individual events. Boyer placed first in the 10-mile ruck march, the final event of the competition, and Garcia was the top marksman in the handgun “Stress Shoot” shooting event.

For these Airmen to step gracefully into this competition was no accident. One former Soldier, Senior Master Sgt. Ross Hawkins, with the 173rd Fighter Wing Security Forces Squadron, knows how daunting it is.

“The Best Warrior Competition is extremely difficult,” he says.  It involves very little sleep, extensive physical exertion, and requires mental resilience.

“Everything gets that much more difficult after a night without sleep and aching muscles,” says Ross. “You start to lose focus and fine-motor skills the longer and harder you go, making every task a burden. It really comes down to preparation, determination, and grit to get yourself across the finish line.”

With that in mind he designed a local try-out that would both select the best candidates to represent the wing and equip them with first-hand knowledge of what they were volunteering for.

“It was extremely important for our Airmen to perform well at the competition,” he says. “Our competitors had to go out and make a first impression—that we take this competition seriously, that we are willing to work hard, and that we can have fun while competing alongside our Army counterparts. I think they more-than did that.”

The Command Senior Enlisted Leader for the Oregon National Guard, Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Foesch, agreed. He said the Airmen performed well and exceeded his expectations during a coining ceremony for both Boyer and Garcia and the members of the Kingsley Field team.

For Tech. Sgt. Jared Boyer, though it’s far outside his daily responsibilities in the finance office, he said he relished the opportunity to experience what core tasks a Soldier brings to the battle field. His physical readiness was among the best in the competition and given the chance to compete next year he would try to prepare for some of the events he’s very new to, such as land navigation. He sums it up saying he wouldn’t change a thing.

“It is Army’s world—they are offering us a sample—I hope it stays Army-centric and we can adapt,” adding that it’s piqued his interest in a joint deployment down the road.

If this year is any indicator it looks as though Airmen will be invited to participate in the Best Warrior competition down the road; if so, it’s in no small part to the combined efforts of Boyer and Garcia and the team that helped them prepare.