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Spc. Robert Kniprath, a senior scout from Troop C, 1-105th Calvary Regiment, 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, will represent the Wisconsin Army National Guard at the National Guard-level Best Warrior Competition later this summer, after winning the regional competition May 11 at Camp Dodge, Iowa.

Kniprath and Staff Sgt. Talon Dumke competed for Soldier of the Year and Noncommissioned Officer of the Year honors, respectively, against peers from six neighboring states in a grueling three-day gauntlet of Soldier skills, military bearing and endurance.

“It’s a little overwhelming,” said Kniprath, who is two years into his second stint in the military following a 16-year break. “It’s kind of hard to soak it all in.”

Dumke, a healthcare specialist with the 64th Troop Command’s Wisconsin Medical Detachment, finished third in the Regional Noncommissioned Officer of the Year competition.

“It’s obviously disappointing getting lower in the rankings than I would have hoped,” Dumke said shortly after the end of the competition. “Still, I gave it my all — that’s all you can do.”

smIMG_4691.jpgCommand Sgt. Maj. Rafael Conde, the Wisconsin Army National Guard’s senior enlisted advisor, said the margin between the top three noncommissioned officer competitors was within 50 points.

“When you’re talking 800 points total, that’s not a lot of points difference,” Conde said. “They both battled to the very end.”

All three said the competition was much tougher at the regional level.

“Everybody here is legitimately a beast,” Kniprath said. “I had my best ruck march time ever, and I took fifth. These are guys that just refuse to quit.”

Conde praised Kniprath’s effort at the regional competition.

“He’s a traditional [National Guard] Soldier with a full-time job,” Conde said. “He’s probably 15-20 years older than most of the competitors. He’s just a tremendous asset to the Wisconsin National Guard.

“They both had a great attitude,” Conde continued. “It was just a great competition all around.”

Kniprath said maturity helped him push through the quitting point during competition. But the break in service was a liability when it came to knowing Soldier tasks that changed since 1999.

“Frankly, these competitions has been wonderful for that — it’s gotten me up to speed much quicker than I would have otherwise,” Kniprath said.

Conde said the regional competition was slightly less rigorous than the state level, due to fewer events and nearly an extra 24 hours for the regional event. The command sergeant major noted that none of the events for the National Guard Best Warrior Competition — to be held July 17-20 at Camp Ripley, Minnesota — will be announced beforehand.