Wisconsin Army National Guard Spc. Zack Warnke won the Guard's three-day Best Warrior Competition this month, earning the title of State Soldier of the Year out of about 7,600 soldiers, according to the Oshkosh Northwestern Media.
"Overall, it was a lot of fun," said Warnke, a member of the 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team. "It's physically stressful; it's mentally stressful; it's a lot of work, but I enjoy that kind of thing."
The annual event tests enlisted soldiers and non-commissioned officers' core skills and knowledge in areas including military leadership and courtesy, said Command Sgt. Maj. Bradley Shields.
Tasks include a 12-mile march with a 30-pound pack, a physical fitness test, firearm qualifications and land navigation.
Warnke, a 34-year-old Sheboygan-area native, will compete against seven other states in May at Camp Ripley, Minn.
For a National Guardsman to reach that level is quite an accomplishment because not only are they assessed at the same standard as regular, full-time Army soldiers, many also have full-time jobs, families and even attend school, Shields said.
Warnke is a full-time student at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, pursuing a biology degree, with an emphasis in ecology. He also works part-time for Oshkosh Cyclery and Fitness.
"I'd say it's a privilege and it's an honor to be able to represent the 32nd Infantry and the state of Wisconsin," Warnke said.