By Sgt. Christopher Churilla
104th Public Affairs Detachment, Colorado Army National Guard
FORT CARSON, Colo. — Six Airmen and eight Soldiers of the Colorado National Guard competed in the 2019 Best Warrior Competition at Fort Carson, Colorado, April 11-14, 2019, to see who among them was the best.
When the competition finally came to an end and the Soldiers and Airmen were tired and exhausted, they mustered up the energy and motivation to see who the winners were. Tech Sgt. Christopher Bailey, a cargo NCO in charge, 140th Logistics Readiness Squadron, was named the best NCO among them. Spc. Jake Beehler, a UH-60 helicopter repairer with Company D, 3rd Battalion, 140th Aviation Regiment, was named the best junior enlisted.
“Coming into it, I didn’t have knowledge of a lot of the stuff,” Bailey said. “I think my mental fortitude and the heart I had to push through is what kept me (going).”
The challenges were part of a promise made by Command Sgt. Maj. Edward Macias, Colorado Army National Guard senior enlisted leader, during his introductory briefing on the first night of the competition.
“You’re going to be challenged, physically and mentally,” Macias said. “I’ll ask you: Can you make yourself better, and then can you make your other warriors that are in your section better?”
The Soldiers and Airmen were pushed to their limits and beyond by the events, which tested them with little to no rest in between. The events challenged the competitors on a large number of skills ranging from land navigation to weapons assembly in full mission-oriented protective posture gear to performing first aid on a simulated casualty.
Bailey said he enjoyed the entire competition, and for him both the best part as well as the most challenging part was the land navigation test, which challenged the participants to find five points scattered in the vicinity of the nearby U.S. Air Force Academy. Night fell during the test, forcing them to find some of the points in the dark.
Beehler agreed and said his favorite event was also the land navigation test, even though he had never done it before.
The tasks were not the only hindrance the competitors had to overcome — the weather was also a factor. It was cloudy, cold and windy through most of the weekend, and nighttime temperatures dropped below freezing and daytime temperatures rose only into the 40s.
The morning of April 13, the competitors conducted a series of warrior tasks and drills; in short order, snow fell, adding another unanticipated challenge. After assembling weapons in full-mission oriented protective posture gear, competitors donned a rucksack full of their equipment and conducted a road march through the now muddy ground of Fort Carson.
This marked the third year Airmen competed alongside Soldiers, emphasizing the joint operations often conducted by the two branches. Macias encouraged the competitors to work with each other, and this was observed throughout the competition.
Soldiers cheered on Airmen as they performed the challenges and vice versa, all the way to the very end of the competition as the service members left no one behind. After many of the competitors were already finished with the ruck march, they turned around to cheer on their fellow Soldiers and Airmen.
Beehler will go on to compete in the Region 7 Best Warrior Competition held in Reno, Nevada, May 20-24, where he will be joined by Staff Sgt. Kelly McLachlan, human resources specialist, Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 5th Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group. McLachlan was named the top Army NCO of the competition.
Bailey, McLachlan and Beehler will also travel to Slovenia in August to compete in a six-man super squad event. Joining them will be three of their fellow competitors: Tech Sgt. Peter Nash, flight chief, 140th Security Forces Squadron; Spc. Jason Higdon, multiple launch rocket system crewmember, Battery A, 3rd Battalion, 157th Field Artillery Regiment; and Airman 1st Class Corbin Andersen, security forces member, 140th Security Forces Squadron, who was also named the best junior enlisted Airman of the 2019 BWC competition.