PEASE AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, N.H. --
Two Airmen from the 157th Air Refueling Wing, here, made New Hampshire National Guard history as the first members of the Wing to compete in the New Hampshire Army National Guard Best Warrior Competition on April 13-15, 2018 at the New Hampshire National Guard Training Site in Center Strafford, New Hampshire.
The Best Warrior Competition comprises an Army physical fitness test, rifle zeroing and qualification, stress shooting with targets and obstacles, performance of the eight warrior tasks, recitation of service creeds, written and oral tests, and a 12-mile road march.
Staff Sgts. Alan G. Bauman and Jonathan L. Pack, assigned to the 157th Civil Engineer Squadron, here, stepped up to compete in the annual event, which has, historically, only had New Hampshire Army National Guard participants.
“They were the first Airmen from the Wing in the nearly 20 years that the Army has been hosting the competition,” said Command Chief Master Sgt. Matthew T. Heiman, the 157th ARW Command Chief. “I am extremely proud of them.”
Pack, a native of Milford, serves as a water, fuels and maintenance journeyman within the 157th CES. He said he knew about his participation in the competition approximately a month before it was to take place.
Bauman, a native of Concord, serves as a structures journeyman in the 157th CES. Wing leadership originally chose him to be Pack’s sponsor, coaching him as he prepared to compete.
“Then we got a briefing about the competition from Chief Heiman and I was like ‘I want to do it too!’” said Bauman.
They found two new sponsors, Airmen 1st Class James M. Kelly Jr. and Carson J. Lustenberger, both assigned to the 157th CES as electrical power pro journeymen. They would support Pack and Bauman, their respective candidates, before and throughout the competition.
Pack, who transferred to the Wing from the Army National Guard approximately three years ago, emphasized the importance of studying Air Force history beforehand.
“It was stressful, but I had my sponsor, Airman Kelly, and he was awesome,” said Pack. “He would make me recite the Airman’s creed and quiz me on tidbits of Air Force knowledge. It was incredibly helpful.”
Each event of the competition would challenge participants to tap into strengths, identify their weaknesses and overcome the obstacles in front of them.
Pack recalled his trials on the land navigation course.
“I was trying to shoot my azimuth and I subtracted my G-M angle instead of adding it,” said Pack, seeming to sigh with exasperation as he shook his head. “So, right from the get-go I was lost. I was so frustrated the entire time, getting deeper into the woods with branches smacking me in the face. I pushed through though and found a couple of my points.”
Awaiting him at the finish line were his and Bauman’s sponsors, along with Chief Heiman, who was high-fiving the finishers as they came through.
“They honestly set the tone for the weekend with their positivity,” said Pack. “I could have come out of that land nav event feeling pretty humiliated, but they brought me back up. They kept the motivation going.”
Pack then reflected on his favorite part of the competition.
“They had this stress shooting event, which was a lot of fun,” said Pack, smiling as he described the timed shooting competition. “They laid it out really well with all these realistic targets and obstacles. It definitely kept my heartrate up."
He said he appreciated the realism of the performance lanes, such as requesting a medical evacuation for a simulated casualty.
“We had to call in a 9-line MEDEVAC and there were actually people there that we had to take care of, instead of some dummy” said Pack. “You could tell they put a lot of time and effort into making this event come together.”
The three-day test of wills culminated with a 12-mile ruck march. Each participant wore their field uniform and a 40-pound ruck sack for the duration.
“There was sleet, rain, slush…everything,” said Bauman, laughing as he described his very first ruck march. “I tried to keep that mentality of ‘let’s see what this is about.’”
Bauman said he and Pack spent much of the first half motivating each other.
“We started out really strong, pushing each other to keep going,” he said. “First, I was strong, then he kept us going."
Bauman described a turning point in the march for him.
“Around the middle mark, when we turned around, with that wind coming at us, that was when I hit a wall,” he said.
He then described what kept him going.
“The camaraderie with the people around me,” said Bauman, smiling, his mood seeming to shift as it would have in the moment of the competition. “As we moved through the course, we would shuffle along with each other.”
Heiman recounted what it was like to watch them cross the finish line.
“The highlight of the competition was definitely the march out in Newcastle,” he said, seeming to beam. “I was there when they crossed the finish line, grinning ear to ear.”
Pack finished in first place and Bauman finished in third.
“It was impressive and emotional,” said Heiman. “It was a very proud moment for the New Hampshire Air National Guard.”
Pack and Bauman both expressed interest in participating again, if given the opportunity, Pack as a sponsor and Bauman as a competitor.
Bauman said he embraced the whole experience, both the highs and lows that come with the successes and challenges, and would recommend it to other members of the Wing.
“You never know what you can give,” he said. “I knew I would give a lot, but I didn’t know how much was a lot. It is an amazing experience.”