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NEWS | Oct. 25, 2021

Michigan Soldiers test endurance and skills during Best Warrior Competition

By Master Sgt. David Eichaker Michigan National Guard Public Affairs

The Michigan Army National Guard recently held its Best Warrior Competition (BWC) to determine Michigan’s Soldier of the Year and noncommissioned officer (NCO) of the year. For the competition, Michigan Soldiers arrived at Fort Custer Training Center on Oct. 18, to demonstrate their commitment to the Army values, embody the warrior ethos, and represent the force of the future. At the conclusion four days later, only one NCO and one Soldier would be named Michigan’s best.

“Competition is great at all levels,” said Command Sgt. Maj. (CSM) Ed Williams of the 177th Regiment, Regional Training Institute. “There are competitions to improve and better yourself and everything associated with this competition is attributed to each Soldier’s unit, where they have learned something.”

During the competition, Soldiers were tested in a variety of areas of physical fitness and intellect. They competed against each other in the Army Physical Fitness Test, drill and ceremony, land navigation, first aid, appearance boards, uniform inspections, and concluded with a 12-mile ruck march.

“It was definitely difficult transforming what I’ve studied out of a book into performing the tasks,” said Spc. Autumn Murdock, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 107th Engineer Battalion, who finished as runner up for the Soldier of the Year.

In a race towards excellence, the competition tested physical ability, intellect, training knowledge, and mental stamina. The event also helped Soldiers recognize personal areas needing improvement and promote a renewed appreciation for the importance of individual Soldier skills.

“I’ve never boarded before and that was one of the more challenging events that I had to do,” said Murdock, who hails from Munising in the Upper Peninsula. “I need to do some more rucking and I didn’t expect it to be this physical, but it is more physical than mental.”

“This was my first experience and I enjoyed it overall and recommend it for everyone in the future,” she added.

Learning and growing as a Soldier is another benefit from competing in this contest.

“A lot of Soldiers have not fired a pistol before as it is not part of their unit’s weapons systems,” said Williams, who is also the CSM overseeing the competition.

Soldiers also had to don their uniforms as part of the dress and appearance portion of the BWC.

“Soldiers had to wear their Army service uniform for the appearance board and had to be prepared for inspections,” said Williams. “These Soldiers and NCOs will be able take that experience back to their units when they are required to inspect someone and now have seen it done and with these different tasks; the competition builds a total Soldier.”

Because the Army promotes based on a total Soldier concept and look at the entire Soldier and their capabilities, a competition like BWC shows the individual what they need to do and know to be successful.

“The competition truly puts all the Soldier skills to the test,” said Sgt. Dain Petipren, 1171st Medical Company Area Support, first time competitor and NCO of the year winner. “I have never qualified with iron sites before and not only did we have to do the Army’s new individual weapons qualification course, but we had to do it with iron sites.”

Petipren, whose hometown is Scottville said, “Qualifying without optics made sure you truly knew the fundamentals of shooting.”

The five Soldiers who competed are Sgt. Deashawnru Thurmond, B Battery, 1st Battalion, 119th Field Artillery; Sgt. Joshua Chekal, A Battery, 1st Battalion, 182nd Field Artillery; Sgt. Dain Petipren, 1171st Medical Company Area Support; Spc. Aaron Fiscelli, 1171st Medical Company Area Support; and, Spc. Autumn Murdock, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 107th Engineer Battalion.

Petipren and Fiscelli will now go on to compete at the next level late spring next year.

“The winners will compete in the next level consisting of seven states, which will be held in May 2022,” said Williams. “The Regional Best Warrior competition will be held at Camp Ripley in Minnesota.”