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West Fargo's Erickson named 'Best Warrior'

The "Best Warriors" in the North Dakota Army National Guard were named recently after a competition Sept. 17-19, that tested the military skill and knowledge of 18 of the state's top soldiers, at Camp Grafton Training Center in Devils Lake.

Sgt. Joel Erickson, of West Fargo, and a member of Detachment 1, 188th Engineer Company (Vertical), based out of Oakes, was the winner of the 2010 Best Warrior Competition in the noncommissioned officer category. In the enlisted-level competition, Spc. Ryan Lindberg, of Fargo, and a member of the 817th Engineer Company (Sapper), based out of Jamestown, took top honors.

Soldiers representing units in the North Dakota Army National Guard battled to earn the "Best Warrior" title during the state-level competition after distinguishing themselves as the top competitors within the Guard's major commands. During the competition at Camp Grafton, they contended with a range of events designed to gauge their competence and performances in Army tasks and evaluations.

"A lot of them have smiles on their faces," said State Command Sgt. Maj. Gerald Miller. "This is the kind of stuff they signed up to be a soldier for - to test their mettle and to test their skills."

The competition presents an array of challenges beginning with an early wake-up call at 4:30 a.m. on the first day. Guardsmen are rousted from sleep to undergo an Army physical fitness test. From there, they face a board of sergeants major who confront them with a barrage of military knowledge questions. The quizzing continues with a written test covering 50 questions on more military-related topics.

The competition continues with a land navigation course during daylight and nighttime hours, as well as marksmanship, Warrior Tasks (general military tasks all soldiers must know) and a Modern Army Combatives tournament that tests the soldiers' ground fighting capabilities.

Upon winning the state competition, the Best Warriors begin preparing for the regional competition. The guardsmen will be aided in training by sergeants major within the various battalions as well as last year's winners.

Should the winners not be able to compete, they will be replaced by the runners-up from the state competition. This year, Sgt. Steve Clark, of Jamestown, and a member of Detachment 1, 816th Engineer Company (Horizontal), based out of Mott, was the runner-up in the noncommissioned officer category. Spc. Matthew Perkins, of Fargo, and a member of the 817th Engineer Company (Sapper), took the runner-up position at the enlisted level.

North Dakota will host the regional competition for Best Warrior in June. The region consists of eight states: Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, South Dakota, Washington, Wyoming and North Dakota.

Regional winners go on to compete in the All-Guard Competition and, if they win there, they compete in the All-Army Competition.