UWSP Student, National Guard Soldier, Advances to National Best Warrior Competition
Submitted by Sgt. Kati Stacy
FORT McCOY, Wis. — A Wisconsin Army National Guard Soldier became the Region IV Best Warrior after a grueling competition at Fort McCoy May 7-10.
Spc. Austen J. Jahnke, an Eau Claire, Wisconsin resident and student at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, is a machine gunner with Company A, 1st Battalion, 128th Infantry. He earned the chance to represent Wisconsin at the 2018 National Guard Bureau’s Best Warrior Competition as the Region IV Soldier of the Year.
Twelve Army National Guardsmen competed in the 2018 Region IV Best Warrior Competition. The six Soldiers and six noncommissioned officers — representing Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin — put their Soldier skills to the test for the opportunity to advance to the 2018 National Guard Bureau’s Best Warrior Competition, scheduled for July 23-27 at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania.
Illinois National Guardsman Sgt. Tycjan S. Sieradzki, an emergency care sergeant for Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 178th Infantry, 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, will participate in the national competition as the Region IV Noncommissioned Officer of the Year.
The Best Warrior Competition is a grueling three-day test of a Soldier’s endurance, mental toughness and military skills through a series of events including an Army Physical Fitness Test, M-4 rifle and M-9 pistol qualification, stress fire exercise, day and night land navigation, written test, essay, appearance board, Army Warrior Tasks, and a 12-mile ruck march. Each Soldier and noncommissioned officer first competed in and won at their respective state level competitions, which led them to represent their entire state at the Region IV competition.
Command Sgt. Maj. Rafael Conde, the Wisconsin Army National Guard’s senior enlisted leader and host of the regional competition, said they kept the order of events hidden from the competitors in order to test their preparedness and ability to adapt.
“The enemy is not going to tell you when they are going to attack,” Conde explained. “You have to be ready for any mission at any time.”
That “Always Ready” mindset is a critical component of what helps ensure the National Guard is prepared to fulfill its dual-mission as the nation’s first military responder in times of emergency and also as the primary combat reserve of the Army and Air Force.
Sgt. Robert Kniprath, a senior scout from the Reedsburg, Wisconsin-based Troop C, 1st Squadron, 105th Cavalry Regiment, and top-three finisher in the 2017 National Guard Bureau’s Best Warrior Competition, gave advice to the competitors at the start of the regional event about how to make the most out of their experience.
“It’s about your state, brigade, battalion — and more than anything else, it’s about representing each and every Soldier back at your unit,” Kniprath said. “Go back with these new skills and experiences and make everyone in your unit better.”
Sieradzki said he looks forward to bringing his new knowledge back to his unit in Illinois.
“These competitions take a lot of time to prepare for and compete in,” Sieradzki explained. “It exposed me to a lot of different experiences which I can now bring back to my unit and pass along to the junior Soldiers.”
Jahnke reflected on the competition and representing so many at the national competition.
“I am looking forward to taking everything I have learned forward to the next level,” Jahnke said. “It’s an honor to represent the state and region, but most importantly my unit which has helped me get to this point and I know will continue to support me going forward.”
Conde left the competitors with advice as they move forward from the competition.
“I want to see every competitor take the knowledge that they have acquired and apply that to their units when they get back,” Conde said. “Take it and help show everybody else in the organization what it takes to be that quality of a Soldier. It’s not about how fast you run, how many push-ups or sit-ups you can do, how many things you tasks you get right the first time. It’s about always giving that maximum effort, no matter what your job is, every day.”