Out of the 12,000 soldiers and airmen who make up the North Carolina National Guard, two soldiers from Fayetteville were named this year’s best warriors.
Sgt. Jacob Reid, a 2011 Jack Britt High School graduate, earned the Best Noncommissioned Officer award, and Spc. Adrian Ramirez, a 2019 Douglas Byrd High School graduate, earned the Best Soldier award.
The annual six-day competition evaluated physical fitness, weapons qualification, road march, land navigation, warrior tasks, a stress shooting course, and a professional appearance review board for the best overall non-commissioned officer and enlisted soldier, said Sgt. Maj. James McKee, a competition organizer.
Reid and Ramirez advanced to represent the state in the regional competition held in May at Camp Blanding, Florida, McKee said.
At the statewide competition in March, Reid and Ramirez were among 14 participants representing each of the North Carolina National Guard’s major subordinate commands.
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Ramirez, who will earn his associate’s degree in information technology from Fayetteville Technical Community College in May, grew up in a military family and joined the guard for the education benefits and to “be part of something bigger” than himself, he said.
He is an information technology specialist with the 295th Signal Company, 130th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade.
Ramirez said he prepared for the Best Warrior competition with “lots of physical exercise,” and by reading Army study manuals online and asking his noncommissioned officers questions. He said his favorite event was the 12-mile ruck because of its challenge.
“You have to be mentally tough and just stick with it and not give up,” Ramirez said.
Reid is a weapons repair sergeant with Bravo Company, 230th Brigade Support Battalion, 30th Armored Brigade Combat Team.
With a retired Green Beret father, Reid said a few years ago he didn’t have direction in his life and his parents gave him an ultimatum of “doing something with his life” or getting kicked out.
Thinking he wouldn’t like the Army, Reid said he decided to try the military part-time and enlisted in the guard by signing paperwork with a recruiter at the Westwood Shopping Center.
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It’s now turned into a full-time job he said he enjoys. He said his sights are set on becoming a flight warrant officer.
Reid said this was the first Best Warrior Competition he’s participated in and he started training for it as a way to advance in the guard.
“It was a way to see how I stand physically and mentally,” he said. “I always tell people if you train and study and practice, you can do anything you want to.”
Reid said he enjoyed the weapons portion of the competition because he’s always been a weapons enthusiast who appreciates the mechanics and history of guns. He said the medical lanes were the most challenging for him.
“I tried not to get nervous when the dummy was bleeding and viewed it as ‘I got to keep this guy alive,’” Reid said. “But in the competition, it’s by the book without skipping steps.”
Sgt. Maj. McKee said day one of the competition started with land navigation that evolved into a night competition.
The second day was spent writing a two-page leadership essay followed by a three-hour, 12-mile dry weight ruck march.
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Other days were spent with a patrol lane, navigation with radios and calling in medical evacuation requests, an obstacle course, and a weapons competition with an M17 pistol, M4 carbine and machine guns.
The third day was spent with a 5K combat run that had Amy warrior tasks each quarter-mile followed by medical tasks that consisted of bandaging and treating wounds or fractures.
Another day was spent before an interview board followed by airborne operations, aerial navigation, enhanced mapping skills and an indoor water swim test that immediately followed by the airborne operation.
“Each one was scored and weighted according to the difficulty of the task,” McKee said. “For instance, if it were a medical task — a needle chest compression would have a little more points than completing a fractured arm with a splint.”
McKee said each task is part of basic soldier tasks, which allows each competitor to compete regardless of job skill or military occupation.
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Some competitors spent up to four months preparing for the competition that promotes esprit de corps, he said.
“We have a lot of good soldiers who put in hard work that’s in addition to their full-time jobs,” McKee said.
Reid said that although he and Ramirez both grew up in Fayetteville, the competition was the first time they met.
He’s now trying to find a sponsor to help Ramirez with more weapons training and hopes they both can take a medic class at the Regional Training Institute to prepare for the regional competition.
“In the competition, it was really harped on that as noncommissioned officers, we use knowledge and training for the next generation of soldiers,” Reid said. “I think that’s something we need to get better at … A lot of that training can be practical in the real world, and that’s one thing about the guard is we also serve our communities.”
Ramirez said he considers it a blessing to be able to represent the state in the national competition.
“All the competitors were capable,” he said. “So this gives me a lot of motivation to continue and keep pushing myself and not let anything get in the way.”
Staying the course is the advice he’d pass along to other young soldiers.
“I recently spoke to JROTC students at Douglas Byrd and told them about my experiences in the guard,” Ramirez said. “I was in their shoes not too long ago, and if I can do it, any one of them can succeed.”
Staff writer Rachael Riley can be reached at [email protected] or 910-486-3528.