Story and photo by Dustin Senger
The Colorado Army National Guard began a three-day challenge at Fort Carson Sept. 23 to determine the state’s top guardsmen.
The Colorado Army National Guard’s Best Warrior Challenge 2011, divided into two enlisted categories based on rank, tested the Soldiers’ strength, endurance and marksmanship, as well as their knowledge of basic Army skills and standards.
Staff Sgt. Eugene Patton, 117th Space Battalion, earned the “Best Warrior” title in the noncommissioned officer division, while newly-promoted Sgt. Lynn Lyrek, 193rd Military Police Battalion, 89th Troop Command, won the Soldier division. They’ll represent Colorado in April during a Region 7 challenge.
Six Soldiers, out of Colorado’s nearly 4,000 guardsmen, won company, battalion and brigade-level rivalries to take part in the weekend event at Fort Carson, said Sgt. Maj. Richard Yohn, 193rd MP Bn. Shortly after the unit redeployed from Afghanistan in February, he took over as competition manager.
Yohn said a surge in community donations and support from senior leaders, as well as new partnerships with the 168th Regiment, Regional Training Institute, at Fort Carson, made this year’s state competition a success.
More than $3,000 worth of cash and prizes were donated for the Colorado Best Warrior Challenge, said Command Sgt. Maj. William Woods, 89th Troop Command. Woods received the donations from numerous Colorado-based private companies and nonprofit organizations after explaining the event’s purpose.
“This is professional development; it’s about developing their skills
as Soldiers,” said Woods, who is the senior enlisted leader for the largest brigade in the Colorado Army National Guard. “This is one of those experiences that don’t come around all the time. The competitors will talk about this for the rest of their lives.
“Being in these competitions, you remember those times of running back to beat everybody … or the written test and the crazy questions the sergeants major came up with … the things you learn about the Army and yourself along the way.”
Woods said the Mountain Post is an ideal setting for the challenges, due to its central location in Colorado and its available Army units, testing facilities and training ranges. He said the high-elevation terrain, east of the Rocky Mountain Front Range, is similar to the environment his Soldiers have experienced in Afghanistan.
“I wanted to push myself and challenge myself and represent my company — the 220th Military Police Company,” said Lyrek, after exiting an almost 1,200-acre land navigation course with prickly seeds stuck to her camouflage trousers. The woodlands had dust funnels circling through cottonwoods, cactuses and grasses.
Lyrek, who tallied the most points during the land navigation course, was a runner-up at her brigade’s competition last year. She suggests getting into great physical shape, studying field manuals and regulations, understanding customs and courtesies, practicing with various weapon systems and welcoming unit support.
During an awards banquet on the final day at Fort Carson, Patton and Lyrek were announced as the “Best Warriors,” and then handed a check for $400, a three-year membership to the Denver Centennial Chapter of the Association of the United States Army, as well as vouchers to Denver hotels.
“It was really good, I’m really impressed … the knowledge you get, the experience you get, the challenge of pushing yourself,” said Patton, who has represented Colorado twice during regional competitions but hasn’t reached the national level.
“Fort Carson helped quite a bit and the competition went really well,” he said. “This state-level (competition) was put on as well as the Region 7s I’ve been to.”