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News | May 20, 2024

New York, Connecticut Soldiers are Regional Best Warriors

By Sgt. 1st Class Jonathan Pietrantoni, 138th Public Affairs Detachment

CAMP SMITH TRAINING SITE, N.Y. – New York and Connecticut National Guard Soldiers took the top slots in the regional Best Warrior Competition that concluded in lower Manhattan May 16.

New York Army National Guard Sgt. Peter Fillion, a member of C Troop, 2nd Squadron, 101st Cavalry Regiment, placed first in the enlisted Soldier category.

Connecticut National Guard Staff Sgt. Curtis Ruckey, an infantryman assigned to the 6th Recruiting and Retention Battalion, was the best noncommissioned officer.

Sixteen Soldiers from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Maine, Rhode Island and Vermont — eight competing in the noncommissioned officer category and eight in the junior enlisted category — vied for a chance to represent the region in the national competition later this year in Vermont.

The New York Army Guard hosted the regional competition for the first time in 10 years.

This year’s event took place at four locations in New York state. Participants competed at Camp Smith Training Site in the Hudson Valley, ran a race on an island on the brink of Niagara Falls, called in mortar fire at Fort Drum, and finished with a 12-mile march in New York City.

New York Army National Guard Command Sgt. Maj. Edwin Garris said the goal was to create excitement and keep the competitors on their toes.

“At the national competition, there is always a surprise element where they expose the competitors to something that they aren’t familiar with, such as moving them out of different training areas, so they don’t get comfortable,” Garris said. “That’s why we move them around New York, to keep them moving because that’s what it’s going to be like at the next level.”

Fillion said he enjoyed the competition and looks forward to the next level.

“The competition was exceptional, and it was great to hone my skills,” Fillion said. 

Ruckey said winning the Best Noncommissioned Officer award and finishing the competition was a huge relief.

“I’m really excited for the next level. I didn’t think I would make it this far so I’m happy that I can go to the next level and looking forward to meeting some new guys and competing with them.”

The competition began at Camp Smith near Peekskill. Soldiers were tested on military knowledge, conducted day and night land navigation and engaged targets with the M-4 carbine, M-17 pistol and M-249 light machine gun.

After two days at Camp Smith, the Soldiers boarded a CH-47F Chinook helicopter flown by B Company of the 3rd Battalion, 126th Aviation, and flew across the state to the Youngstown Training Area in western New York.

They spent the night there, woke up early and ran a five-mile race at Niagara Falls State Park. After more testing, they flew to Fort Drum, home of the 10th Mountain Division.

The competitors directed the fire of 120 mm mortar rounds by Soldiers from the 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.

New Jersey National Guard Spc. Michael Schwyher, assigned to 104th Engineer Battalion, said he enjoyed competing with his fellow Best Warriors.

“I love competing with guys that have the same mentality of pushing each other,” he said. “And to do it here with Niagara Falls in the background is motivating; it’s not something most people get to do.”

The competition ended with a 12-mile timed ruck march at the southern tip of Manhattan.

When everybody had finished, they went to the nearby 9/11 Memorial.

“One of the best parts of doing the Region I competition in New York was getting to ruck through the city,” said Rhode Island Sgt. Jeremiah Cosme, an infantryman assigned to 1st Battalion, 143rd Infantry Regiment.

The national competition will be hosted by the Vermont National Guard in August at the Ethan Allen Firing Range. The winners will advance to the Army-wide competition.

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