LANSING, Mich. –
Eleven Soldiers with the Michigan Army National Guard (MIARNG) set out to compete for the title of Michigan’s best warrior. The competitors, who endured warrior tasks such as land navigation, weapons qualifications, and ruck marches hailed from a variety of military occupational specialties from chaplain assistants, combat medics, to High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) operators. The Soldiers competed against each other Sept. 12-15 at Fort Custer Training Center.
The event provided top-tier Soldiers their abilities to test their proficiency and mental and physical endurance in a many warrior tasks, consisting of 12 events.
“I wanted to challenge myself and have the opportunity to compete and try to test myself mentally and physically,” said Pfc. Joshua Carter, a HIMARS driver with A Battery, 1st Battalion, 182nd Field Artillery Regiment. “I think just taking the information I have learned from my noncommissioned officers and the training I’ve received, I can apply it here and get a good result.”
The event itself is designed to reinforce fundamental Soldier warrior tasks and battle drill, promote esprit de corps, recognize Soldiers who demonstrate commitment to the Army values and embody the warrior ethos.
“This competition builds that esprit de corps and allows Soldiers to meet other competitors throughout the Michigan National Guard,” said Command Sgt. Maj. William W. Russell III, the state command sergeant major and senior enlisted leader of the Michigan Army National Guard. “This allows competitors to train with each other, which is one of the great things about this event as it brings these warriors together and inspires competition and drive while bringing these Soldiers together.”
One Soldier competed for the experience and to push her limits.
“One of my first sergeants at my unit asked me to compete and I just went for it,” said Sgt. Olivia Stephan, heavy vehicle driver, I Company, 132nd Brigade Support Battalion, 126th Regiment. “My intentions are to win, get the experience, and push my limitations—I feel like I gave it my all.”
Stephan, who has four years of service, talked about some of the events involved in the competition.
“I was familiar with the Army Combat Fitness Test and felt strong in that area,” she said. “The obstacle course had some challenges but the mystery event, which involved a body of water, allowed me to use a lot of strategy.”
The event also reinforced Army Values, Warrior Ethos and pushed physical limits.
“The Army Values and Warrior Ethos align with this competition,” she said. “You have to complete the mission first and never quit. The water was a struggle and you have to have that mindset to keep pushing yourself.”
“In the military, you do have to push your limits and I expected to be pushed,” she said.
Carter, who enlisted in March 2021 to give back to this country, is also a college student and utilizing educational benefits offered in the Michigan National Guard.
“I just joined to serve,” he said. “Joining the Michigan National Guard gives me experience in the military and to see if this is something I wanted to do long-term as a career.”
Carter was already in college when he enlisted but since joining, is receiving educational benefits.
“I am using the Michigan National Guard State Tuition Assistance Program (MINGSTAP), Federal Tuition Assistance (FTA), and the Montgomery G.I. Bill, which helps out financially,” he said.
Like Carter, Stephan also is taking advantage of educational benefits that includes more than $14,000 a year just through the MINGSTAP program.
“The National Guard helped for a lot of my education,” said Stephan, who already has her bachelor’s degree. “I used the Montgomery G.I. Bill, drill weekend pay, MINGSTAP, and FTA and am hoping to go to graduate school and continue to use the MINGSTAP and FTA.”
The competition is used to select the noncommissioned officer of the year and the Soldier who will represent the MIARNG at the Region 4 Best Warrior Competition.
“As a senior leader, you just love seeing young Soldiers step up. It reinforces we’re in good hands,” said Russell.
The Michigan National Guard Soldier and noncommissioned officer of the year winners are Spc. Timothy Downes, chaplain assistant with the 246th Transportation Battalion and Sgt. Joshua Chekal, HIMARS section chief, A Battery, 1st Battalion, 182nd Field Artillery Regiment. They will advance to compete in the Region 4 Best Warrior Competition in 2023.