By Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Keeler
Fourteen Pennsylvania Army National Guard Soldiers will compete in the 2021 Best Warrior Competition March 3 to 6 at Fort Indiantown Gap.
The Soldiers are from units from across the Pa. National Guard and competed at unit-level competitions to reach the Best Warrior Competition. They will be vying for one of three awards: NCO of the Year, Soldier of the Year, and the Command Sgt. Maj. Jay H. Field NCO Leadership Award.
These Soldiers hail from units like the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 55th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, 56th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 213th Regional Support Group and Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 28th Infantry Division.
“The Best Warrior competition starts at the company level and continues past the state level to national level competition,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Jon Worley, senior enlisted leader for the Pennsylvania National Guard. “It serves as a means to challenge our NCOs and enlisted Soldiers to strive to be better and well-rounded as warriors. The events include physical fitness, military knowledge and other stressors that challenge you as an individual.”
The competition has nine events, including a written exam, weapons qualifications an obstacle course and an appearance board.
Competitors will arrive at Fort Indiantown Gap on Feb. 27 to train for the event, and the competition will begin on March 3.
The winners will go on to represent the Pennsylvania National Guard at a regional National Guard Best Warrior Competition.
Strict COVID-19 safeguards will be in place to protect the participants and support staff, said Col. Regan Shabloski, COVID-19 medical director for the Pa. National Guard.
“Individuals are screened prior to the event by at least two days, and are screened daily while on ground," Shabloski said. “The participants are limited in the number of individuals that may accompany them and limitations are in place for spectators as well. The barracks, events, feeding arrangements, and billeting are structured to comply with COVID-19 precautions.”
These extra precautions, supporting the DoD and Pa. Department of Health’s COVID guidance, are in place to allow events like the Best Warrior Competition to continue while protecting everyone involved.
“Fort Indiantown Gap Training Center has demonstrated that training events may be held in a safe and COVID-19 strategic manner to continue the readiness mission while maintaining force protection in regard to the pandemic,” said Shabloski.
These safeguards, along with the extra work of planning the event, allow the participants to focus on the competition and support the tradition of the Best Warrior Competition.
“I believe it is important to continue these events while focusing as always on the safety of our force,” said Worley. “Most of our training has some type of inherent danger. COVID-19 has just added another dimension to our planning and safety precautions.”