ASHTON — Four of the Army’s top Soldiers from across the state met at the Illinois National Guard’s Marseilles Training Area for a four-day competition to determine the best Soldier in the Illinois Army and National Guard.
This year’s winner is member of the Company E, 1st Battalion, 106th Aviation Regiment in Peoria, Specialist Troy Mairs of Ashton, took honors as Illinois’ enlisted Soldier of the Year.
“I knew that I had to train hard to be able to challenge the other top soldiers,” said Mairs. “My motivation to win came from my family and opportunity to compete at the state level.”
Going into the final event on April 9, Mairs had exerted his dominance over the competition by winning 9 of the first 10 challenging events. Mairs further solidified his top spot by finishing the 10-mile road march in full combat gear in less than two hours.
“It was really great to meet and battle with all of the top competitors in the Illinois Army National Guard. I just want to thank God for giving me the skills to perform at such a high level in these challenges,” said Mairs. “Ultimately, I just wanted to compete hard and finish strong. If I won, I knew it would make my hometown of Ashton and my family proud.”
The Guardsmen competing at the State Challenge are the top representatives from their respective brigades. The Best Warrior Competition pits these Soldiers against each other in a multitude of events designed to test their physical fitness, mental toughness, and their competence at warrior skills. The winner of the competition becomes the state’s Soldier of the Year. Then they compete in the regional competition with hopes of reaching the national level to compete for the Army’s Soldier title.
The competition began April 9 with the Army Physical Fitness Test, a three-event test consisting of two minutes of pushups followed by two minutes of sit-ups and finished with a timed two-mile run. Over the next three days, the Soldiers competed at rifle and pistol qualification, common skill tasks, urban assault warfare, day and night land navigation by compass, a confidence course obstacle race, and a question and answer board made up of Illinois’ highest ranking officers. The competition capped off with a timed 10-mile road march with a 50-pound rucksack.
The four competitors were selected from a pool of nearly 10,000 Soldiers in the Illinois Army National Guard through platoon, company, and battalion-level boards to compete as Illinois’ Best Warriors.
Major General. Michael Zerbonia, of Chatham, of the Illinois Army National Guard reminded competitors why they were there during the event’s closing ceremony. “Remember, you’re four of the best Soldiers in the state,” Bowman said. “You were chosen from 10,000 soldiers in the Illinois Army National Guard. Be proud of where you finish no matter what.”
Mairs will compete again May 4 to 11 at the Best Warrior regional competition at Camp Dodge in Johnston, Iowa. If he prevails, he will compete at the National Guard’s national competition in Minnesota.