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UNG instructor to compete for Armys Best Warrior title
Sgt. 1st Class David Smith, right, competes in the road march portion of the recent U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command competition at Fort Eustis, Va. - photo by Courtesy University of North Georgia

Sgt. 1st Class David Smith is getting ready to put his skills as a soldier to the test.

Smith, an instructor of military science at the University of North Georgia, will compete this October in the U.S. Army Best Warrior competition. Smith had to win three other competitions before entering the Best Warrior competition, and he has to follow a rigorous training schedule to keep up with the physical and mental demands of competing.

Smith began at UNG last October, and the following month he won the First Brigade U.S. Army Cadet Command Non-Commissioned Officer of the Year competition. This summer, he won both the U.S. Army Cadet NCO of the year competition and the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command NCO of the Year competition.

The competitions are designed to push soldiers as far as they can go and include rigorous physical contests, tests of survival and navigation skills, weapons tests and both written and oral tests of military knowledge.

Each competition is around five days long.

“I think the most challenging thing is they put you in a stressful situation. It’s kind of maintaining your composure and being able to operate under stressful circumstances on a daily cycle during the competitions,” Smith said. “They do their best to get you out of your comfort zone and push you to your physical limit.”

Smith, a Dillon, S.C., native, joined the Army in 2001 and served in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait and several U.S. states before being assigned to UNG last year. 

He said training for the competitions is time-consuming but rewarding.

“I’m trying not to let my training interfere with my job,” he said. “I do physical fitness training five days a week. On different tasks, I try to train three days a week.”

Every Thursday, Smith said, he does a road march, and every Monday, Wednesday and Friday he works on the practical application of his knowledge. He practices shooting weekly and also has to keep up to speed on everything from medical training to chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense.

Part of the challenge is trying to anticipate what he will need to know.

“You don’t know what the (competitions) are going to hold until you get there,” he said, adding, “The Army fosters a continuous learning environment and, in a competition like that, you continue to develop your leadership abilities and your technical and tactical knowledge.”

Having to act without knowing exactly what’s coming is part of what makes the competitions authentic. There are 40 tasks and battle drills participants could face.

“Each competition is what every soldier does,” Smith said. “It just tests your fundamentals and soldiering skills.”

He said this is his first time to participate in the competitions, and he’s excited to have gotten so far.

“The most rewarding thing I have taken away from the competition is being able to meet and compete with all the amazing soldiers and NCOs from across the U.S. Army,” he said. “These competitions motivate you to be the best NCO and leader you can be.”

This is the first time a UNG instructor has competed in the Best Warrior competition, which includes up to 23 competitors representing a number of Army commands, West Point, the Army Reserve, the Army Corps of Engineers and service components from around the world.