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A Wisconsin Army National Guard Best Warrior Competition competitor crawls under barbed wire as an evaluator observes during the obstacle course event at the Wisconsin Best Warrior Competition April 6 at Fort McCoy, Wis. A winter-like environment and uncertainty regarding which events would come next underscored the National Guard’s emphasis on physical and mental readiness. 112th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment photo by Spc. Alice Ripberger

FORT MCCOY, Wis. — The Wisconsin Army National Guard’s State Best Warrior Competition at Fort McCoy, Wis., April 5-8, and the recently launched Guard Your Health Campaign have a common goal: mission readiness.

On the surface, there are few parallels between the meditation tips on the Guard Your Health Campaign’s website and the three-day, grueling competition. However, they share the same intent to enhance the overall readiness of the Wisconsin Army National Guard — an organization that must be ready to serve as both the state’s first military responder in times of emergency or in a federal capacity as the Army’s primary combat reserve.

The tasks for the State Best Warrior Competition included a variety of events such as qualifying on three different weapons, the Army Physical Fitness Test, a land navigation course, testing essential Soldier survival skills, a written test and essay, an appearance board, and a 12-mile ruck march. The winners of the competition will advance to next month’s regional Best Warrior Competition, also held at Fort McCoy this year.

Competitors had to come prepared to adapt to anything.

Spc. John Clark, a public affairs specialist with Headquarters Company, 157th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, competed last year and participated this year as a sponsor to one of the competitors.

He explained that this year the competitors did not know the order of events and had to show up prepared for any task at any time.

“We have to pack all the equipment we might need for any of the tasks,” Clark said. “We don’t know what we’re going into. This morning we shipped out at 3:30 in the morning and didn’t know where we were going. We don’t know what we’re doing until we’re doing it.”

Wisconsin National Guard Best Warrior candidate Spc. Jason L. Wagner, a forward observer with Berlin-based, 1st Battalion, 120th Field Artillery Regiment, completes the mystery task of carrying two weighted ammo cans following the physical fitness run April 6 at Fort McCoy, Wis. A winter-like environment and uncertainty regarding which events would come next underscored the National Guard’s emphasis on physical and mental readiness.112th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment photo by Spc. Amanda Stock

In addition to the planned events, competitors also had to complete a mystery task. This year, the mystery task required Soldiers to run an additional half mile with 50-pound ammunition containers immediately after running the two-mile event of the Army Physical Fitness Test.

The competitors’ adaptability was tested further when unseasonable weather brought fresh snow and freezing temperatures.

“Soldiers in the Wisconsin Army National Guard have to be ready at a moment’s notice and that is something we do really well,” Clark said.

Command Sgt. Maj. Rafael Conde, the Wisconsin Army National Guard’s senior enlisted leader, made the point that football players do not just show up to games. They prepare throughout the entire week to play the game. The same principle applies to the military.

“We need to be ready mentally, physically, and spiritually for any mission at a moment’s notice,” said Conde.

The Guard Your Health campaign takes readiness off the field and brings it to the fingertips of Soldiers in their civilian lives.

The campaign provides Soldiers with nutritious recipes, fitness tips, mental health guidance and addresses a variety of other health related topics — all in the name of enhancing readiness to serve the state and nation.

According to Maj. Gen. Don Dunbar, Wisconsin’s adjutant general, today’s Army National Guard needs to be ready to deploy in support of any number of worldwide contingencies or here at home when emergencies arise.

“Our nation is relying on the National Guard more and more,” Dunbar said. “Readiness is our top priority, and we must be ready to answer the nation’s call at a moment’s notice. Ensuring our Guard is physically, mentally and spiritually fit is the first step.”

A strong mental, spiritual, and physical foundation is vital to the National Guard’s success and readiness. While few will have the opportunity to compete in a Best Warrior Competition, the demands it magnifies represent the challenges Soldiers face each day. Thanks to programs like Guard Your Health, National Guard members have another tool to help ensure they are ready when called.