Amsden in full gear, rifle in hand, doning an orange vest with the number 24, running on road during competition.

Courtesy photo

Ohio Army National Guard Sgt. Aaron Amsden, a forward observer for the 1st Battalion, 145th Armored Regiment, was crowned the winner of the U.S. Army Central Command’s Best Warrior Competition, noncommissioned officer category, and also competed in the Army Forces Command (FORSCOM) competition in 2020. The BWC recognizes Soldiers who demonstrate commitment to Army values, embody the warrior ethos and represent the force of the future.

Ohio National Guard forward observer adjusts fire, hits it big

Story by Sgt. 1st Class Chad Menegay, Ohio National Guard

COLUMBUS, Ohio (10/20/20)

Readiness is a forward observer.

Readiness is reading a curriculum map, studying the landscape, visualizing the terrain features and directing attention toward specific targets — as in goal setting. Readiness is intelligence activities that prepare one to reach targets that might have otherwise been beyond one’s range and power.

Ohio Army National Guard Sgt. Aaron Amsden, who won his battalion, division and command-level (U.S. Army Central, or ARCENT) Best Warrior Competitions (BWC) this year, is well practiced in such intelligence activities, and he called on himself to take his fire all the way to compete at the U.S. Army Forces Command (FORSCOM) level.

Amsden is a forward observer assigned to 1st Battalion, 145th Armored Regiment, and when the original call for fire came on relatively short notice, he was already physically prepared.

While deployed in Kuwait, his squad leader came to him and said, “Hey, by the way, I want you to do (the battalion-level BWC). It happens in like a week,” Amsden said.

Even though Amsden had never competed in a Best Warrior Competition before, he made certain he was mentally ready through study of a crash-course curriculum.

“There were many things I had never done before, like I had never done a(n appearance) board before,” Amsden said. “I’d never done a Soldier of the quarter. Being in the National Guard, I didn’t have to do one to become a noncommissioned officer, so I got with some active-duty guys, and they sent me in the right direction. We actually went through some mock boards, and I trained for the pressure of being asked those questions and present answers in a professional manner. If it weren’t for their help, I would probably not have even won the first level.”

Amsden went into the deployment physically fit, so he excelled in the fitness events such as the 12-mile ruck march, which he completed in 2 hours, 9 minutes. He did the Army Combat Fitness Test for the first time ever, scoring around a 573, he said.

“It was rewarding to know that I could win above my organic unit,” Amsden said. “I was able to beat people from quote ‘the real Army,’ and just knowing, ‘hey, I can hang with them,’ that was pretty cool.”

The division-level competition wasn’t as virtual as other levels, so Amsden was able to look his competitors in the eyes, size them up and watch them compete, he said.

“It was very rewarding because we were right there next to everybody else,” Amsden said. “When you’re doing your runs, rucks and land nav, you’re watching everybody else go find their points. I really got to push myself.”

Amsden, who played soccer, basketball and track in high school, also represented Sidney Christian in academia competitions, or, as he put it “nerd quizzes.”

“Having a goal and having to really work to achieve it, that’s similar to sports,” Amsden said. “Having to really put out to beat, say a rival team that’s on par with you, that’s the same kind of feeling I had in these competitions.”

With Amsden’s run of BWC wins at the battalion, division and U.S. Army Central Command (ARCENT) levels, and his experience competing at the FORSCOM level, he believes he’s now better prepared to lead his Soldiers, answer their questions and generally make them ready.

“Being able to build that base of knowledge was really helpful and helped me grow as an NCO,” Amsden said.

Nearly 600 Citizen-Soldiers of the 1-145th, headquartered in Stow, Ohio, recently returned home after more than a yearlong deployment to the Middle East in support of Operation Spartan Shield. During the deployment, the Soldiers were part of the 30th Armored Brigade Combat Team, comprising 4,200 National Guard members from four states: Ohio, West Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina.

Photos by Sgt. Trevor Cullen, Task Force Spartan Public Affairs