When Daniel D’Ippolito expressed interest in the National Guard’s Best Warrior competition, his superiors did more than encourage him. They did not let him forget it.
“I was kind of expected to do it, so I said, ‘Alright, let’s give it a go,’’ said D’Ippolito, a corporal in his third year in the Arizona National Guard.
D’Ippolito, 26, finished first in the soldier category of the Best Warrior national competition, which was held Sept. 13-16 at Camp Shelby and Camp McCain in Mississippi. Staff Sgt. Mitchell Scofield of the Mississippi National Guard won in the noncommissioned officer division.
“I was exhausted at the moment, but I was a little overwhelmed [at winning], just because of the level of the competitors that were there, how well-rounded they were,’’ said Scofield, 32. “To be among them, I was very honored just to be there.’’
The four-day test included 14 competitors, seven regional champions in each division, and 21 events that fell into one of three categories — “shoot, move and communicate,’’ said Cmd. Sgt. Maj. John T. Raines III of the Mississippi National Guard.
Two obstacle courses were involved, as was a 12-mile ruck march, an Army combat fitness test and a swimming component. A National Guard member’s marksmanship was gauged through several shooting events. A competitor’s general knowledge and his physical and mental toughness also were assessed.
Some events were surprises.
“There were multiple mystery events inside of the competition, different situational awareness or situational exercises,’’ said Scofield, who is 6 feet tall and weighs 215 pounds. “The one event that really caught me off guard was, we had a rock climb at the end of the obstacle course. You’re physically depleted after coming off the obstacle course, then going directly into a rock climb was very challenging.’’
Scofield, who estimated the rock climb as 30 feet high, prepared for the Best Warrior competition through a mixture of physical training and studying. D’Ippolito followed a similar strategy, reading, relying on flash cards and preparing his 6-foot-3, 215-pound frame through rucking, mountain climbing and CrossFit workouts in his garage.
D’Ippolito also did plenty of running.
“I would go out for a run in the Arizona summer and come back near heat exhaustion and just test myself and get some hot-weather conditioning in,’’ he said.
Both National Guardsmen said being well-rounded in a competition with so many varied elements ultimately made a difference. D’Ippolito said his younger brother, Jason, texted him constantly during the Best Warrior nationals, asking how he was doing. D’Ippolito said he never could be sure, because the field was separated into groups.
His eyes got really big with disbelief when he was announced as the winner.
“It’s very humbling, and I’m very appreciative of it,’’ D’Ippolito said. “I’ve said this to other people before. The title of Best Warrior deserves to go to the people who fought and died for the country and fought in combat.’’
Scofield and D’Ippolito advanced to the All-Army Best Warrior competition, which also includes active-duty military and the reserves. The virtual All-Army event already has started and is scheduled to conclude Oct. 10, Raines said.
“Once we get done with that competition, that’s when we’ll actually start celebrating,’’ Scofield said.Read comments