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CAMP PERRY, Ohio — The Wisconsin Army National Guard’s Soldier of the Year and Noncommissioned Officer of the Year each struggled to place the end of the Regional Best Warrior Competition into perspective.

“It feels good to have gone through such a competition with the best competitors from six other states,” said Staff Sgt. James Brown, a member of Battery A, 1st Battalion, 120th Field Artillery Regiment. “But at the same time, not placing hits a little close to home.”

Spc. Alexander Hahn, a member of Company C, 1st Battalion, 128th Infantry Regiment, confessed to having mixed emotions.

sm160517-Z-HQ508-020.jpg“I’m really happy I made it to this point, but disappointed that I’m not going any further,” Hahn said. “It was a great event, great experience — I’m a little sore, but I’ll bounce back.”

Both Brown and Hahn represented Wisconsin and competed against the top Soldiers from Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana and Ohio in a grueling three-day marathon event that tested their endurance, military bearing and skills.

“We did very well in the tactical events,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Bradley Shields, the Wisconsin Army National Guard’s senior enlisted advisor. Brown and Hahn took first place in weapons qualification, and were strong in the Army Physical Fitness Test, road march and land navigation events.

“I enjoy shooting,” Brown said. “I do that quite a bit in my free time.”

sm160519-Z-HQ508-043.jpgHahn said the 12-mile road march with a loaded rucksack was his favorite event.

“That’s one of my strongest events, so I normally enjoy it,” he said.

“I saw a pretty good balance of well-rounded Soldiers from a tactical perspective, and a very high level of expertise in the other parts of the competition — the appearance board, the essay,” Shields continued. “What we’ve seen is Soldiers really begin to broaden their field of expertise to include those other categories. As we look forward, those are some areas where we need to improve.”

Staff Sgt. Logan Gehlhausen of the Indiana Army National Guard and Spc Dakota VanBrocklin of the Iowa Army National Guard placed first at the regional competition and will advance to the National Guard-level Best Warrior Competition for a chance to compete at the Army-level contest.

Brown planned to make the most of his Best Warrior experience.

“The knowledge and experience gained, now I have the ability to take that back to my Soldiers and my unit and help them prepare for competitions, and make our Soldiers and the organization as a whole better,” Brown said.

Hahn wants to return to the Best Warrior gauntlet as a noncommissioned officer.

“The skills that I’ve acquired over the past eight months training for all the different phases has definitely helped me realize my potential — where I’m at, what I need to work on,” Hahn said. “It’s given me an idea of where I can potentially go in the military.”

The regional competition marks the end of the road, of sorts, for Shields as well. He will retire from the military next month after more than 40 years in uniform.

“It’s a sad day for me,” he acknowledged. “This is the highlight of my year where we bring the best of the best. I’m just so proud to have spent time with these Soldiers — I’m very proud and privileged to have been part of the process. It reinvigorates us to be around that top one-hundredth of a percent of Soldiers in terms of commitment and expertise.

“I look forward to my replacement taking it to the next level, improve on what we do and get back in the winner’s circle,” Shields continued. “Overall, we did a great job.”