BASTROP, Texas -- Of the more than 3,200 airmen serving in the Texas Air National Guard, only eight were selected to compete at Camp Swift as part of the 2018 Texas Military Department Best Warrior Competition. Among the selectees, one stood out from her peers -- not just for her skill and abilities in qualifying to represent her unit, but also as the only female competitor.
"Competing seemed like a great opportunity," said Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jennifer Brown, an education and training specialist with the Texas Air National Guard's 273rd Cyber Operations Squadron. "For me, it wasn't an imitation factor. I used to be a Marine, and I remember every year my commander would send out an invite for individuals interested in the competition. When I saw the email for this year and saw the list of different knowledge responsibilities I went ahead and tried out."
The Best Warrior Competition consists of several challenges over a period of four days. Competitors are expected to display proficiency in marksmanship, physical and written tests, land navigation, self-aid buddy care and combat-communications. Though not a part of her day-to-day operations, Brown trained for months prior to familiarize herself with competition requirements.
"The ruck [march] has been the most challenging thus far," she said. "I don't think I was as prepared for the last four miles of fatigue, but it's something you have to learn and power through on your own. The obstacle course was the most fun. It was hard at points, but the competition is about challenging yourself. Getting over the fear factor."
Brown has more than fifteen years of combined service between the Marines and the Texas Air National Guard. Even with deployments to Iraq under her belt, she still lacked all of the experience needed to be successful to compete. So, after she qualified at the base level, Brown's unit was instrumental in making sure that she would be a strong contender.
"It [training] exposed me to a different environment in the guard," she said. "To train, we ran tactical air control party obstacle courses, had weapons knowledge training and did 45-pound ruck marches, which was good because I got exposure. Then they had land navigation at the schoolhouse at Camp Bullis."
The competition is meant to be grueling, with extreme stress and long testing hours. The simulations reflect real-world combat situations and test the tactical and technical skills of the members being evaluated.
Competing alongside her fellow airmen, soldiers and state partners provides a unique opportunity to experience completely different ways of accomplishing the mission, Brown said.
"We all serve." she said. "It's a humbling experience, and being here, I hope, is an example that will encourage others to participate. I don't back down from a challenge and I'm proud to have been a part of this event."