In a competition determined to find the best of the best in the Army National Guard, Sgt. Matthew Howard has come out on top.
Sgt. Howard, 36, of Clarksville, was named "Best Warrior" during a four-day competition at Fort Benning, Ga., a week ago. It's the first time someone from Arkansas has won the title.
Sgt. Howard represented the C Battery, 2nd Battalion, 142nd Fires Brigade in Ozark. He competed against six other noncommissioned officers (NCO).
"There's over 300,000 soldiers in the National Guard,” Sgt. Howard said. “And to be able to be the one NCO that gets to represent them this year is just awesome. It's a great honor.”
The six men and one woman faced a series of mental and physical tasks resembled to match real-life combat situations.
"Just a lot of things running through your head at once,” Sgt. Howard said. “Trying to remember the task, the steps - you know...just all of the questions they fire at you. It's a lot of stuff to think about during that week.”
SSgt. Eric Evans, his coach during the competition, said he knew from the beginning that Sgt. Howard was going to win, or at least put up a hard fight.
"Before we went to the award ceremony I told him I said ‘Let’s go get your trophy and go to the house,’” Evans said. “At that point I knew that he had done what it took to win the competition.”
Sgt. Howard said he couldn't have done it without Evan's coaching and the support of his family.
Sgt. Howard is preparing for the Department of the Army competition which will be held in October at Fort Lee in Virginia.
After that, he hopes to coach the next contestant through the competition and bring home gold for the state.
Sgt. Howard has been in the military for more than 17 years.