BLUFFDALE, Utah – The Utah National Guard is host to a national competition for soldiers across the U.S. this week.
Tuesday, they were put through grueling tasks to test their resilience and shooting accuracy.
“I enjoy the physical aspect of it and pushing myself and seeing how far I can go physically and mentally,” said Spc. Cruser Barnes, a National Guard soldier from Hawai`i.
Fourteen soldiers from different National Guard posts around the country are at Camp Williams in Bluffdale. Their military leaders call them the best of the best in combat training.
“And so, they rose to the top and that’s why it’s a national competition – it is only consisting of a few because they’ve gone through several hurdles to get here,” said Maj. Gen. Jeff Burton with the Utah National Guard.
Generals with the Utah National Guard are judging the competition. Soldiers are put through a grueling physical fitness test and several gun range shooting exercises.
“And then they have to come out and physically just execute very challenging, difficult things,” Burton said. “They have to carry a lot of weight on their backs. They’re covering up to 26 miles today and they’ll be under a lot of stress and while they run with this weight, they have to stop and do what’s called reflexive or stress firing down range.”
Burton said these exercises help prepare them for deployment.
“These events, of course, make them better soldiers and it teaches them not to quit,” he said. “And what they can do physically, mentally and emotionally – more than they think they really can do.”
The guardsmen say the tasks condition them to execute their missions more efficiently.
“You have to get your mind straight, and be able to clarify and organize what you need to do,” said Spc. Timothy Phadugthin, a National Guard soldier from Maine.
Sgt. Maj. Brunk Conley said it’s a coveted title to win the event.
“They have a title nobody can ever take away from them the rest of their life. They are the Army National Guard Soldier of the year,” Conley said.
The two final winners of this competition will go on to compete against the winners of the U.S. Army national competition.