RAPID CITY, S.D. — It is without a doubt a challenge for the body as well as the mind. The South Dakota Army National Guard State’s Best Warrior Competition in Rapid City seeks to spotlight the best of the best in a variety of demanding events such as weapons firing, physical strength, and endurance tests.
Every year, battalions from across the state are asked to volunteer their toughest soldier to undergo simulation exercises not so different from combat.
“This is where we make our money. You know when these soldiers are deployed this is what they do to survive, to achieve and win and this is what they do, and so it’s putting all of that together,” said Commander Sergeant Major Patrick Couser.
This year, 10 soldiers are competing to be named either the state’s Soldier of the Year or Non-Commissioned Officer of the Year.
Lydia Raderschadt is one of the few women to join the competition. She was chosen by her unit and says it’s a great honor. She says not letting her medallion down is giving her the strength she needs to get to the finish mark.
“I’m a little fatigued from the ruck and you know, just doing all the lanes out here. I still have a couple to go, but mentally, I‘m pretty strong still and I‘m ready for the last day and the board which is the most stressful thing I think,” said Specialist Lydia.
For some who volunteered, the obstacle courses, though taxing, were a way to self-evaluate.
“I volunteered for this because I thought it would be a cool opportunity. I wanted to see what level of ‘soldiery’ let’s say I was at or where I needed to improve, so this is a really, really good competition to understand where my basic warrior tasks are concerned and where I need to improve,” said Specialist Jacob Hernandez.
Competitors will get their results at the end of Day 3. Winners from the state will move on to represent South Dakota in the Region 6 competition against National Guard soldiers from seven other states next spring.