Story and photos by Staff Sgt. Luisito Brooks
Two Soldiers assigned to the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), swept opposing competition during the 2013 Military District of Washington’s Best Warrior Competition; earning the titles of the MDW noncommissioned officer and Soldier of the year.
“As I stood there waiting, I was pretty nervous until they called my name as the winner,” said Sgt. Robert Keifer, who was named the NCO of the year. “I was excited and proud that all the hard work paid off.”
The competition was held, July 15-19, at Fort A.P. Hill, Va.
During the competition, seven noncommissioned officers and three Soldiers were tested on basic and advanced warrior tasks and battle drills, day and night land navigation, urban warfare simulations, physical fitness, rifle qualification, a written exam, a ruck march and a board interview.
The competition was no walk in the park according to Keifer, who said it was one of the toughest things he has been a part of.
“I have been in a couple events like this, but at this level, you see the best out here. The key for my success was to keep focus throughout the week,” said Keifer, infantryman, Honor Guard Company. “Not only were we battling against each other, we were battling the heat as well. We had to make sure we ate and stayed hydrated.”
However, with water and other proper safety precautions in place, Soldiers demonstrated their mental and physical skills in temperatures well into the 90s. In the end, only two found themselves on top.
Spc. Michael Sands, MDW Soldier of the year, was nearly speechless when explaining how it felt to claim one of the coveted spots.
“I can’t put it into words,” said Sands, infantryman, Delta Company. “It’s very special. I felt privileged just to be selected.”
Sands said it was an added bonus wining alongside a fellow Old Guard Soldier.
“It was really rewarding to see both of us win. The Old Guard delivered a one, two punch,” said Sands, “He and I would study as often as possible to make sure we had things memorized. We really worked hard together to get to this point.”
Keifer agreed it was great to win with someone from the same unit.
“It’s like winning with my little brother,” said Keifer. “We have grown really close because of this experience. I am really looking forward to moving on and getting ready for the next competition. I’m glad The Old Guard will be represented at the next level.”
Keifer and Sands will compete in the Department of the Army’s BWC this October at Fort Lee, Va.