Las Vegas soldier prevails over international field to nab Nevada’s Best Warrior title
Sgt. 1st Class Erick Studenicka
Joint Force Headquarters
HAWTHORNE – Spc. Tyler Davis of 1-221st Cavalry overcame fierce internal – and international – competition to win the Nevada Army Guard’s Best Warrior contest at the Hawthorne Army Depot on March 14.
Davis, 29, of Las Vegas, bested a field that included both soldiers and four Tongan Marines.
This year’s Best Warrior contest marked the first time military personnel from the Nevada Guard’s State Partnership Program competed alongside Nevada Army Guard Soldiers for the title. Nevada is teamed with the Kingdom of Tonga and the Republic of Fiji in the program that teams a state’s National Guard with a country in an ongoing series of engagements that broach a wide spectrum of military, civilian, economic and social topics.
Sgt. Conor Czyzniejewski, 23, of the 422nd Expeditionary Signal Battalion in Reno, won the Non-commissioned Officer Best Warrior title. With their wins, both Davis and Czyzniejewski also garnered the Nevada Army Guard’s Soldier of the Year and NCO of the Year awards respectively.
The Army’s Best Warrior contest has been contested Army-wide since 2002 and could be described as a military decathlon featuring a wide variety of events, including tests of physical fitness, marksmanship and Army knowledge. All told during the three days of competition March 12-14, the eight participating Soldiers and four Tongan Marines were scored in 11 different disciplines.
Davis and Czyzniejewski now advance to represent the Nevada Guard in the Region VII Best Warrior contest. That event will also take place in Hawthorne in mid-May and include the top Soldiers from eight western states and territories.
Soldiers’ Division Best Warrior contest
Davis, a motor transport officer in Las Vegas-based Delta Company, remained consistent in the 11 events. Although he did not win any one of the individual events, his consistency allowed him to finally pull away from tenacious Pvt. Sione Lonitenisi of the Tongan Marines. Lonitenisi was first in the Army Physical Fitness Test and the Soldier Readiness Test.
(Only the division and individual event winners were released following the contest; overall places were not released.)
Davis admitted the Tongans, who performed surprisingly well despite being unaccustomed to Hawthorne’s elevation and winter temperatures, put a lot of stress on the home-state Soldiers. The other Tongans who competed were Pvt. Saevii Tonga, Pvt. Sione Atoa and Pvt. Dimitirous Polisima.
“Absolutely I felt the pressure,” said Davis, who himself did a stint in the U.S. Marines before joining the Army Guard. “They are very well-rounded Marines. We realized they were winning many of the events.”
The other Soldiers who participated were: Spc. Joel Olivares, 17th Sustainment Brigade; Spc. Matthew Clark, 422nd Expeditionary Signal Battalion; and Spc. Cindy Robles, 609th Engineer Company.
Maj. Tomaakino Tu’itavuki, the Tongan officer accompanying the Marines, said the performance by his South Pacific contingent left him pleasantly surprised.
“I was expecting we would take the last four places,” Tu’itavuki said. “We have never trained in this type of weather or ever experienced this elevation. But our team has remained flexible and battled through three days of competition.”
NCO Division Best Warrior contest
After locating only two of eight points during land navigation competition on the penultimate day of the contest, Czyzniejewski believed he was destined for yet another runner-up Best Warrior result after placing second to Spc. RijhunAlexander Rimon of the 609th Engineer Company in 2018.
But Czyzniejewski, who lives in Monterey, Calif., and drills with Bravo Company in Las Vegas, dominated the final day with wins in the 12-mile ruck march and oral board to overtake the field. He won the 12-mile march by more than 20 minutes with his time of 2 hours, 25 minutes. He became eligible for the NCO competition just weeks before the event after attaining the rank of sergeant in February.
Although all of the Tongan Marines were privates and competed in the Soldiers’ division, Czyzniejewski said the addition of foreign competitors to the contest improved everyone’s performance.
“Their presence was definitely motivating,” Czyzniejewski said. “They did just as well as we did, even though it was our home turf, and made all of us better.”
The other Nevada sergeants in the contest included: Sgt. Brandon Hurst, Recruiting and Retention; Sgt. Francis “Frank” Champa, 1-221st Cavalry; and Staff Sgt. Douglas Zamora, 240th Engineer Company.
Entering the final day, Champa had Czyzniejewski on the ropes after the recent graduate of Ranger School won the Pistol Marksmanship and Land Navigation events earlier in the week.
Nevada Guard officials said Hawthorne was chosen as the location for the contest because it is one of the few sites in Nevada with all of the requisite venues for a Best Warrior contest, including marksmanship ranges and land navigation courses.
Lt. Col. Randy Lau, director of the Nevada Guard’s State Partnership Program, said the multi-day competition achieved its goals on multiple levels.
“The contest was successful because it allowed partners to share military best practices, become familiar with new military techniques and assess what we should do in the future,” Lau said. “The overarching success, though, was the fact we continued to build and foster a strong relationship with our partner countries.”
Fiji sent two military observers to watch this year’s Best Warrior contest and is set to send participants to Nevada next year.
The Region VII contest is set for May 13-17 in Hawthorne.