The four-day championship sought to test combat abilities with harsh field exercises, but also mental agility. Best Warrior 2019 participants competed in various activities, such as physical aptitude, obstacle course, first-aid simulation, and a written test, to obtain the coveted title that establishes their strength and endurance on the battlefield.
The Texas Military Department event gathered 31 competitors at Camp Swift, Texas, February 28 to March 3. Texas National Guard soldiers and airmen, five Chilean service members—two from the Army and three from the Marine Corps—and two Czech Republic Army officers took part in the championship.
“The focus of our competition is war tasks meant to enhance skills already in the soldiers’ arsenal,” U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sergeant Michael Cornitus, senior enlisted leader of the Texas Military Department, told Diálogo. “Our goal is to show soldiers they can get through anything set in front of them based on their training and know where they may need to train more so they are completely confident when a situation arises.”
Day and night tests
The competition included a dozen timed events, such as a 20-kilometer march carrying a 20-kilogram rucksack; physical endurance with push-ups, crunches, and a 6-km run; night navigation; and assembly, disassembly, and shooting with M9 pistols and M4 rifles. Participants also carried out a first-aid simulation with radio communications for a medical evacuation and took an exam on military history.
“This competition is an excellent professional experience, especially the knowledge exchange in different events,” said Chilean Marine Corps Staff Sergeant Mayquel García, who took part in Best Warrior 2019. “From holding a rifle to carrying a rucksack, reading a topographical chart, everything is aimed at sharing knowledge and techniques to fulfill the different requirements in the best way possible.”
The competition concluded with a mystery event, in which participants had to conduct several tasks during a simulated chemical attack with protective suits and gas masks. Although all exercises are difficult, Chief Master Sgt. Cornitus said that all except the mystery event are known beforehand, which allows participants to prepare.
“It’s a great opportunity for our personnel to interact with other top-level military forces,” Chilean Marine Corps Sergeant Major Luis Hernández, who led the Chilean team, told Diálogo. “Working with military personnel from different countries, getting familiar with new material, procedures, and training areas, all this increases our knowledge [and] strengthens bonds of friendship.”
Reinforcing bonds of cooperation
The Chilean officers’ participation took place under the U.S. Department of Defense’s State Partnership Program, which joins a state’s national guard with partner nations’ armed forces to reinforce bonds of cooperation. Chile participates in the program since 2009, with Chilean service members first joining the Best Warrior competition in 2016.
“The reason we have included our partner nations is to enhance mutual relations and pass on some of our expertise in these combat training scenarios,” said Chief Master Sgt. Cornitus. “Interoperability between our forces is very important and keeps us on the same level.”
Now in its 18th edition, the annual competition is divided into two categories: officers and noncommissioned officers. Winners from the competition in Texas will be able to take part in the same competition at the regional, national, and international levels.
“Although official results won’t be submitted until May, our performance was very good,” Staff Sgt. Hernández said. “The competitors did their best, exceeding our previous participation.”
Chief Master Sgt. Cornitus agreed with his Chilean counterpart and noted that one of the 2018 winners was from Chile. “They are very competitive soldiers, and each year our U.S. soldiers train thinking how they will compare to the Chilean soldiers in each event.”
Every year, the Chilean Armed Forces take part in many knowledge exchanges with the U.S. military. For example, units of the Chilean special forces conducted the biennial exercise Northern Star with their U.S. counterparts in Camp Shelby, Mississippi, January 2019.
“We had very nice moments of camaraderie with the different participating units and great support from the whole organization during our stay,” Staff Sgt. Hernández concluded. “In a nutshell, we all feel like winners in this competition; there are no winners or losers. Yesterday, we met as soldiers, and today we gain friends.”