By Sgt. 1st Class Erick Studenicka
Joint Force Headquarters
HAWTHORNE – Staff Sgt. Keahi Granstrom, a motor transport operator in the 1864th Transportation Company, and Sgt. Bryan Brown, a combat engineer in the 609th Engineer Company, emerged as the top Noncommissioned Officer and Soldier in the state respectively during the three-day Best Warrior contest that concluded Thursday at the Hawthorne Army Depot.
By winning the Best Warrior contest, Granstrom garnered the 2022 Nevada Army Guard Noncommissioned Officer of the Year title and Brown won the Soldier of the Year title. The duo will advance to represent Nevada in the regional Best Warrior contest in Guam in May.
The Army’s Best Warrior competition tests Soldiers’ physical and mental abilities in a wide range of events, usually including the Army Combat Fitness Test, weapon marksmanship and myriad Soldiering skills.
“Both Granstrom and Brown displayed they are very good Soldiers during the contest and they will be very competitive in Guam,” said state Command Sgt. Maj. Dennis Basilio, who attended all three days of the competition.
“Those two Soldiers killed it from the start,” said training and operations Sgt. Maj. Cameron Anderson. “The Soldiers who won pulled ahead early.”
A total of nine Soldiers who had advanced from battalion level Best Warrior contests converged on Hawthorne to determine the state champion. This year’s contest included: the Army Combat Fitness Test, a military knowledge examination board, M17 pistol- and M4 rifle marksmanship events, communications and medical-response skills testing and, ultimately, a 12- mile ruck march conducted in subfreezing temperatures and a biting wind.
Granstrom, 26, of Henderson, recorded the top score in the opening event of the contest, the ACFT – 566 out of a possible 600 points – and took an early lead in the NCO division and was never seriously challenged. He recorded the maximum points available in the 3-repition strength deadlift, the standing power throw and the leg tuck events.
Granstrom, who is on full-time duty to support the Nevada Army Guard’s Southern Honor Guard squad, also won the NCO division in the examination board, the ruck march and three marksmanship events.
He also held his own in his admittedly weak events, the communications- and medical-skills testing events, after seeking coaching from experienced Soldiers in the weeks leading up to the state contest.
“I spent time with several subject matter experts to prepare for the call for fire and medical lanes,” said Granstrom, who was fourth in both the communications and medical response events.
Brown, 25, of Reno, prepared in advance of the state contest under the tutelage of Staff Sgt. Grant Reimers – the current 609th training NCO and the 2017 National Guard champion in Best Warrior (Reimers would finish second in the All-Army Best Warrior contest that year.) Brown won the Soldiers’ division in the ruck march, pistol marksmanship and the Stress Shoot events and was second in the ACFT. Pfc. Damon Jennings of the Aviation Troop Command had the top score in the ACFT in the Soldiers’ division with his tally of 540 points; his score was the second-best out of all competitors.
“I am fortunate to have the opportunity to train with Staff Sgt. Reimers,” said Brown, who works for the state’s Division of Emergency Management and at the sporting goods store Reno Sparks Scheels in his civilian occupations. “He helped prepare me for radio communications, the examination board and pistol marksmanship.”
The duo have about two months to prepare for the Region VII Best Warrior contest in Guam May 23-27. Region VII includes Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Hawaii, Utah, Colorado, California and Guam.
“There will be a lot of well-trained and well-prepared Soldiers in Guam,” Granstrom said.
Basilio said it’s not too early for Soldiers to start preparing for the 2023 Best Warrior contest. Interested Soldiers should contact their local administration sergeant for entry into the 2023 company- and battalion level competitions.
The entire list of battalion winners who competed included alphabetically:
NCO Division: Sgt. Enrique Dealba, Aviation Troop Command; Granstrom, 17th Sustainment Brigade; Sgt. Brenden Morgan, 1/221st Cavalry; Sgt. Daniel Sevilla, 757th STB; Sgt. Clifford Stewart, 422nd ESB.
Soldier Division: Brown, 757th STB; Jennings, Aviation Troop Command; Pfc. Christopher Handy, 422nd ESB; Pvt. Donevan Holley, 17th STB.