A group of soldiers and officers from the South Dakota Army National Guard competed in Yankton for the state's Best Warrior Competition, which names the Soldier and Non-Commissioned Officer of the Year.

The winners were announced by State Command Sgt. Maj. James Hoekman, the SDNG's senior enlisted leader.

"After the three-day competition, Staff Sgt. Shane Wilkinson, with Headquarters Battery, 1st Battalion, 147th Field Artillery, was named the 2017 SDARNG Non-Commissioned Officer of the Year and Spc. Lucas Scott, 842nd Engineer Company, the SDARNG Soldier of the Year."

Hoekman says the underlying theme of the competition is readiness.  Soldiers need to be ready at a moment's notice, trained to help with anything from civil unrest to natural disasters.

"The competition is rigorous - both physically and intellectually. We're bringing back the field craft and the warrior skills that every Soldier should have."

In each competition, soldiers were tested on every level, from rigorous physical demands of marathon type runs and endurance testing, to sleep deprivation, exams and preparation for response to mock emergencies.

"This year's competition was extremely close," said Hoekman. "The Soldiers were very well prepared. In fact, the Soldier of the Year competition came down to a tiebreaker on an exam. Our competitors maintained the high level of expertise that always has been known in the South Dakota National Guard."

Wilkinson and Scott continue to the Region 6 Best Warrior Competition in May at Fort Lewis, Washington.

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