WASHINGTON – October 14, 2015 – The Army announced the winners of the all-Army Best Warrior Competition at a luncheon held at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center Oct. 12.
Taking home second prize for the Soldier category was the Army National Guard’s top Soldier, Spc. Cruser Barnes, from the Hawaii Army National Guard’s Troop A, 1st Squadron, 299th Cavalry Regiment. The Army Guard’s top noncommissioned officer, Sgt. Robert Cunningham, from the West Virginia Army National Guard’s 119th Engineer Company (Sapper), received an honorable mention as the fastest NCO to complete the ruck-march event of the competition.
Though neither competitor from the Army Guard took home the top prize, Command Sgt. Maj. Brunk Conley, the command sergeant major of the Army Guard, said Barnes and Cunningham had become winners long ago.
“They’ve been winners for over a year,” Conley said. “They won their unit awards, they won their state awards, and they won the Army National Guard award, and they came here and they gave it their best and they never quit.”
Conley they were an example of the first stanza of the Warrior Ethos, which says never accept defeat.
“It doesn’t say that ‘I will never be defeated’, it says ‘I will never accept defeat’,” Conley said.
Talking with Barnes and Cunningham, Conley said, “Use these experiences to make your units better, to make your organizations the best that they can be … because through getting knocked down we get back up, and we brush ourselves off and we find the good in that and we move on to make our Army and our lives and our families and our employers better.”
Cunningham said his experiences with the competition have made him better.
“Losing today is a humbling experience but in the broad scheme of things I am a much better person now than I was a year ago,” he said. “I’m a better Soldier now and I can take those skills back to the National Guard, back to the state of West Virginia, and help make others better.”
Barnes too said the competition was about more than what he could do.
It is not about what I can do, it’s about representing the National Guard at this level, and showing that the Guard has great Soldiers, Barnes said.
“It’s about inspiring the guys back home [in Hawaii] as well as National Guard [members] all over the world to try and achieve their best,” he said.
And though he gave his best, Barnes said he was humbled to place second.
“It’s an honor to be recognized as the runner-up and it humbles me and reminds me that there is still someone better than I am and that I still have to train harder each and every day to improve myself and get after it.”
Conley said simply competing and making it to the all-Army competition spoke volumes of Barnes and Cunningham.
“It’s easy to be outside of the arena and watch and criticize,” Conley said. “The real adventure and the real measure of a Soldier is the [one] who climbs into the arena and tries to strive to do great things, and even in defeat can hold their heads high because at least they were in the [arena] doing their best to try to represent their organization and become a better Soldier.”