Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Wisconsin Guard Soldiers test their skills in the Great White North

By 1st Lt. Peter Owen
1st Battalion, 128th Infantry

Five Wisconsin Army National Guard Soldiers were among the top finishers in an annual one-day military skills competition in Winnipeg, Manitoba, against teams from the Canadian Land Force Western Area and the Minnesota National Guard March 17.

1st Lt. Andrew Adey of Minocqua, Wis.; Sgt. 1st Class Kevin Penttila of Inver Heights, Minn.; Spc. Israel Bursch of Blair, Wis.; Spc. Aaron Cobosco of Eau Claire, Wis.; and Spc. Zachary Pierce of High Bridge, Wis., comprised one of 13 teams in the Skill-At-Arms Competition hosted by the 38th Canadian Brigade Group. The physically demanding day began at 5:30 a.m. with teams having no idea which events they would compete in - only that the events would take place during a road march.

Half an hour into the events, contestants arrived at an equipment cache; they could use whatever they found throughout the day, but they would have to carry that equipment all day as well. The Wisconsin team selected a set of binoculars and military nylon parachute cord.

Teams ran from one event station to the next, carrying their equipment and a 40-pound sandbag. Stations included first aid, basic map reading, distance estimation, marksmanship, assembling weapons from assorted components in a tote, and assembling a field stove to boil water.

"It is a unique opportunity to train and compete internationally as a team," Adey said. "The Soldier skills were basically the same for both of our countries, so it provided a great opportunity to compete in the fundamental skills while building relationships with Canadian forces."

At day's end, Wisconsin finished in third place. Col. Nic Stanton, 38th Canadian Brigade Group commander, said that including National Guard teams from Wisconsin and Minnesota provided an excellent opportunity to interact, experiencing similarities and differences during a healthy competition.

"We were blown away by the hospitality the Canadians showed us," Adey said, "and look forward to more opportunities to train with them."

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