JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO- LACKLAND, Texas –
Three airmen assigned to the 149th Fighter Wing participated in the Texas Military Department's 2020 Best Warrior Competition at Camp Swift in Bastrop, Texas March 4-8, 2020.
Staff Sgt. Juan Garcia, Staff Sgt. Derek Guedes and Senior Airman Shara Lewis took on the annual four-day challenge designed to test tactical and technical expertise through scored events.
One of the events the competitors must complete is a water survival test, which is a 125-yard swim in full uniform, followed by 10 minutes of treading water.
“I would say the water survival test was the most challenging part," Lewis said. "It caught most people by surprise because we hear a 125-yard swim, and most people think, 'I can do that, I do that in the pool all the time.' But when you’re in uniform and combat boots, the boots fill up with water, and they start sinking you real quick.”
The purpose of the event is to build camaraderie and strengthen inter-agency relationships among Texas Guardsmen. With all of the members competing against one another, it may not seem like an excellent team-building event to the typical bystander. However, during challenges, competitors often help and cheer for each other.
"I have learned a lot from my roommate," Lewis said. "She has taught me a lot since I got here. She is awesome."
Bonds like the one between Lewis and Guevara are beneficial to the Texas Military Department's Soldiers and Airmen alike. Hurricane Harvey highlighted the importance of these relations when Army soldiers and Air Force airmen deployed together during the state's recovery operations.
"The event is important because not only are they practicing their warrior skills, but they are also learning how to work with each other," said Senior Master Sgt. Juan Flores, 149th Security Forces Squadron superintendent. "We work hand-in-hand with the Army quite a bit, whether that be in natural disasters or the border mission, so it is important that we learn to work with them to learn how to do it well."
In total, 31 competitors participated in this year’s TMD BWC, including military members from the Czech Republic and Chile who are both partners of the Texas military under the National Guard Bureau State Partnership Program. The competition gives all parties involved an opportunity to work with and learn from each other.
"The Chileans are great people," Garcia said. "I've been able to become good friends with them. I was even able to help one of them learn how to disassemble and reassemble the Mark 19 machine gun because I speak Spanish. It felt really good to teach someone else, and he was super appreciative."
TMD is hosting an awards banquet in April, where the winners of this year’s Best Warrior Competition will be named and honored. The winners from the Army National Guard named in April will continue to represent Texas in the regional and national Best Warrior competitions later this year.