BY MELANIE BUCK –
Staff Sergeant Joshua Loar has been named as Arkansas National Guard’s Best Warrior following a grueling three-day competition at Camp Robinson in North Little Rock. Loar is a graduate of Acorn High School in 2001 and has served in the military for 14 years in the infantry division. Out of the ten soldiers that competed, Spc. Benjamin Mitchell won the Soldier category and Loar won the NCO (non-commissioned officers) category as the 2016 Arkansas National Guard Best Warrior.
The competition begins early in the year with soldiers competing at the company level before moving on to battalion and then state, levels. Warriors making it to the state level were tested on many facets that range from a 13.1-mile ruck march to stress shooting, land navigation, weapons qualifications, and a mystery event. “I don’t know if there is a particular event that is harder than any other. All three days had their own challenges. With the ruck march, I had to carry 60 pounds of gear. There is a famous hill called ‘West Boundry Hill’ that you pretty much have to crawl on your hands and knees to get up,” Loar explained.
Loar, of the 233rd Regional Training Institute, was the first to cross the finish line in the ruck march, completing the exhausting event with a time of 3 hours 12 minutes and 27 seconds. After day one, the National Guard said, “The Soldiers and NCO’s started their day with the Army Physical Fitness Test at 5:30 a.m. in the 27-degree weather. From there, these Guardsmen have been pushing themselves to their limits all day, running, shooting and completing Soldier tasks as more and more physical and mental fatigue builds up.” They also stressed that it’s not just a competition, but also a way for the soldiers to learn new tactics that can be taken back to their units and provide useful lifetime knowledge.
Loar said, “It was a great experience to win. The competition was tough. Each event had its own challenges and I was up against some of the best non-commissioned officers in the state who gave me a good run for my money in every event.” Loar is eligible to move on to the regional best warrior competition and if he wins there, he moves on to nationals. The national competition promises to be more grueling than the first. Their website boasts it as, “One of the toughest tests of a Soldier’s resolution and training is the Best Warrior Competition, a five-day marathon of mental and physical trials that push these elite Soldiers beyond their limits.”
Included in Loar’s 14 years of service are two deployments to Iraq and one to New Mexico. Loar has also been awarded the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, Air Assault Badge, Army Mountain Warfare Badge and Governors Twenty Tab, Purple Heart Medal and two Army Commendation Medals with Valor.