BUTNER, N.C. This week the strongest soldiers in the N.C. National Guard put their skills to the test.Since 2008, the N.C. National Guard has been sending the best of each brigade to compete in a week-long tournament known as “The Best Warrior” competition. Held at the Camp Butner Training Site Stem, N.C. warriors competed in tests of agility, strength, strategy and fitness. They work their way through obstacle courses, fire evacuation drills, written exams, weapons testing, land navigation, a stress shoot course and urban operations.Ultimately they all want to be named either the best noncommissioned officer and soldier. It’s a long, rough road to get here.”Competitors are selected from their company, then they move up to the battalion, then from the battalion the nominees, or winners, from that particular level are sent forth to the brigade, from the brigade the winners are sent here,” explained 1st Sgt. Travis Evans. “The next step is the regionals which will be held in Kentucky. And then from there onto nationals.”This year 14 units were represented by competitors ranging in ages, hometowns, professions and experience. The North Carolina National Guard is made up of 11,000 soldiers ready to respond in state or national emergencies. Recently, the N.C. National Guard were deployed to assist in the wake of Hurricane Matthew and provide security during the protests that turned to riots in Charlotte this fall. The guard is a military force comprised of citizens soldiers and traces its heritage back to the 1663 Carolina Charter, granting authority to levy, muster and train men. They may just be your neighbors, too.”Looking around, honestly, and I have a different perspective, because I spend most of my time on active duty,” Staff Sgt. Nicole Kimble said. “But the National Guard comes in many different forms. National Guard looks like your police officers, nurses and teachers, that are all coming together one week out of the month to train. There are different talents and education that you can pull from, which is very unique in itself.”Kimble just recently completed her nursing degree and is now a certified pediatric nurse. She is also one of two female competitors in this year’s Best Warrior competition. The North Carolina National Guard, in the event of a crisis, is the first interaction many people have with service members; they must always be ready to help their community. That desire to reach out and give back is a big draw.”I was in college, I realized that I wanted to make a change,” said Sgt. Adam Hackett from Charlotte. “And when I found out that there was a way that I could be a citizen-soldier, I knew that that was something I definitely wanted to do.”The competitors see this week representing their units as an honor. Pfc. Kyle Smith graduated from basic training less than a year ago, and he was here to win like all of the other competitors. Smith ultimately walked away with the Best Soldier of the Year award.”I competed at brigade and got first place there, I beat all the NCOs,” he said. “I’m just trying to do the same thing here. I’m representing my family name, East Carolina University, my fraternity, and my unit.Smith is currently attending ECU in the Army ROTC program majoring in health fitness. All of the competitors are proud to be pushing themselves to compete, but the week does more than test their skills. It reminds them of why they serve in the first place to work hard to help their country and community, and perhaps just as hard to compete for title of Best Warrior.”These are the best of the best of this year that the North Carolina national guard has to offer from each category,” said Evans.
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