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Minnesota National Guard
Midwest Guardsmen compete for regional title

Minnesota National Guard CAMP RIPLEY, Minn- Fourteen Soldiers representing seven Midwest states arrived at Camp Ripley, Minnesota, May 12, vying for the title of Region IV Best Warrior in the Soldier and Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) categories Already champions from their respective state competitions, these Soldiers were aiming to advance to the National Guard's best warrior competition at the National Guard Professional Education Center in Little Rock, Arkansas; but first they had to face what Camp Ripley had prepared for them

As the host state of this year's regional best warrior competition, Camp Ripley and the Minnesota National Guard set out to prepare a first-class event that mirrored the type of challenges the competitors would face at nationals A year prior to the event, Command Sgt Major Marcus Erickson and his team traveled throughout the nation to study other state's competitions in order to find out what was needed for an event of this caliber

"We had to offer an event that supports this level of Soldier and competition in order to select the best Soldier and NCO to represent Region IV," said Erickson

From food and hydration stations at each event to viewable GPS tracking of Soldiers while out on land navigation courses; the hosts at Camp Ripley expertly used their assets in order to best accommodate the competitors and their teams "I have a team that is just outstanding; and when you surround yourself with competent people that have heart and drive, the end result is easy to achieve," said Erickson

Although the first scheduled day was meant for in-processing and introduction, the next 72 hours proved to be effective in determining who Region IV would be sending to nationals Over the course of three days, Soldiers showcased their skills both physically and mentally in a series of tightly-scheduled events that required competitors to perform under pressure

Command Sgt Maj Bradley Shields of the Wisconsin Army National Guard kept close watch of how his Soldiers performed over the course of the events

"The ability to utilize some of the different technologies during the competition allows a different dimension to how we can see how our Soldiers react and maneuver in the field," said Shields "I see this as a valuable training tool to look at how our Soldiers are doing and we take that back to our force in Wisconsin and evaluate what direction we need to go in our training"

As the Soldiers progressed through their courses and tasks, it was clear that each state had fielded their best, as the competition was close right to the very last event At the end of all the events, two Soldiers came out on top: Staff Sgt Michael Walker and Sgt Corbin Routier, both from the Minnesota National Guard The two will represent Region IV this coming July in the National Guard Best Warrior Competition

"I can't say enough about our team from Minnesota; they have been competitors from the first day I saw them at the state level of this competition," said Command Sgt Major Cynthia Kallberg, Minnesota National Guard Senior Enlisted Advisor "I think our Soldiers from Minnesota have what it takes to win at nationals and any one of the competitors from Region IV could have done the same," said Kallberg

Walker and Routier will continue to train in the months ahead to keep their skills sharp for the national competition

Competitors in the Best Warrior Competition Soldier category were: Spc Jacob Bultmann, Ill; Spc Kyle Hanson, Iowa; Spc Daniel Warfel, Ind; Spc Zachary Ward, Mich; Sgt Corbin Routier, Minn; Spc Justin Conway, Ohio; and Spc Zackary Warnke, Wis

Competitors in the Non-Commissioned Officer category were: Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Tallman, Ill; Sgt Jacob Guck, Iowa; Sgt Kenneth White, Ind; Sgt Travis Dykstra, Mich; Staff Sgt Michael Walker, Minn; Sgt Daniel Brautigam, Ohio; and Sgt. 1st Class Dustin Zabinski, Wis

May 16, 2014
by Tech Sgt Paul Santikko
Minnesota National Guard Public Affairs

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