National Guard soldiers put their training to the test
Contest looks to find Best Warrior
LATHAM David Colliton was trying to keep it simple.
With two tours of duty overseas, the National Guard sergeant first class has been in combat situations where he had to help a wounded soldier. At the state’s Division of Military and Naval Affairs headquarters in Latham on Saturday morning he was trying to recreate that effort — not under fire but as a test of his knowledge.
He attended to a soldier pretending to be injured and went through a verbal checklist. He said he would call for help, check for shock, elevate the legs and talk to injured person. The judge kneeled nearby and kept notes on a clipboard.
“It’s a lot more chaotic during the deployed situation, but it’s the same task,” said Colliton, who lives in Amsterdam and is a volunteer firefighter in the town of Florida. “That situation is more instinctual, where now you might over think something in this type of setting.”
The situation is one of the tasks that 14 of the state’s most accomplished Army National Guard soldiers are facing this weekend for the title of Best Warrior in New York. These competitors emerged from a brigade-level competition.
New York National Guard Sgt. Maj. Frank Wicks, who was on hand for Saturday’s competition, said the two state winners will then compete in a regional event. He is confident that New York’s entries in the eight-state competition will head to the national competition.
“You have to be confident,” Wicks said. “We have some of the best soldiers in the world right here in New York state.”
Tasks include breaking down — taking apart — an assault weapon, calling for a medical helicopter, using land navigation, knowing military history and physical tests. The gym in Latham was set up with desks for most of the activities, whether it was a soldier working with a radio to simulate a radio call or sitting down for a written exam.
Staff Sgt. Valentin Arreola, of Scotia, was not feeling confident during competition on Saturday. “It’s nerve-wracking,” he said, noting that competitors were the best of the best.
Arreola has served six years in active Army and three years with the Guard, during which time he has done four combat tours. He returned from Afghanistan in October.
“This is exactly what you would do in a combat situation,” he said of the different events.
Part of the challenge away from combat is getting into the right mind-set, Arreola said, but stressed that their mantra is to train like they fight. That means creating the same intensity during training that drives them on the battlefield.
To prepare for the competition, Colliton stepped up his physical training with the “Insanity” workout, a commercially marketed program that emphasizes short bursts of maximum effort, and has been studying the official Army guide to prepare for examinations. “I want to bring home a victory,” he said. “I’m definitely a competitive person.”
Today’s competition includes an oral exam, with the soldiers being quizzed while wearing their dress uniform. These questions come from senior noncommissioned officers who will be testing them on a wide variety of topics.
Learn about last year’s national Best Warrior competition at www.army.mil/bestwarrior/2012/.