Alaska Army National Guard hosts competition for ‘Best Warrior’ title

Inside the Gates
Fourteen soldiers and noncommissioned officers traveled to Alaska in July to compete in the Army National Guard Best Warrior Competition.
Published: Jul. 26, 2023 at 4:50 PM AKDT|Updated: Jul. 27, 2023 at 5:11 PM AKDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Fourteen soldiers and noncommissioned officers traveled to Alaska in July to compete in the Army National Guard Best Warrior Competition.

In what is considered a once-in-a-lifetime career competition for service members competing in Alaska, each state takes turns hosting the competition every 54 years.

“This was our opportunity — I’m glad I was around for it,” Sgt. Maj. Mike Grunst with the Alaska Army National Guard said.

Grunst said during a soldiers’ time in service, they have a lot of moments that will define their time in uniform. This, for many Alaskan soldiers, will be that moment.

“We are going to have a lot of opportunities for those throughout our career, and this is the one my Alaskan soldiers are going to remember for the rest of their lives,” he said.

Competitors traveled to Alaska from all around the country — including Maine, Connecticut, West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia, Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, and Hawaii. Together, soldiers from the 12 states represent seven regions across the United States.

Competitions kicked off July 7, when soldiers and NCOs squared up to compete in a variety of over 25 tests that challenge both the mental and physical traits of a competitor to see who is considered the best of the best when it comes to the Army National Guard.

“It’s not going to highlight anyone who’s just a shooter; it’s not going to highlight somebody who’s just a really good speaker. It’s going to get somebody who can really understand the totality of being a soldier in the current operating environment,” Grunst said. “They are also competing on marksmanship. So, they’ve been using every individual weapon in the army inventory, they are using crew serve mission guns, they are serving on basic soldier task.”

The events gave soldiers and NCO’s a close-up experience of serving in Alaska, no matter the weather.

“Apparently rain avoidance, bear avoidance, moose avoidance, porcupine observation for the wildlife skills,” Grunst said when asked what competitors are facing.

The top five noncommissioned officers and soldiers will move forward to compete in a competition, pitting the U.S. Army during the U.S. Army Best Squad competition in the fall.

“There will be an amazing opportunity for us to show what the National Guard is capable of, which is winning,” Grunst said.

Competitions wrapped up on July 14. Spc. Luke Harrison from the Wyoming Guard dominated the competition and was named Soldier of the Year. Sgt. Bailey Ruff from the South Dakota Army Guard was named NCO of the Year. Army Guard members from Minnesota, West Virginia, and Missouri will be joining them to compete as a squad in the Army Best Squad Competition later this fall.

Editor’s note: The headline of this article has been corrected to reflect that Alaska Army National Guard served as the host for the Best Warrior event. Soldiers from Alaska did not participate.