An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

NEWS | Nov. 8, 2023

Kentucky National Guard selects the Best Warriors of 2024

By Sgt. 1st Class Rebecca Wood, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs Office

The Kentucky Army National Guard announced the winners of the state-wide Best Warrior Competition at the awards breakfast held at Wendell H. Ford Training Center, Nov 5.

The Kentucky Soldier of 2024 is Spc. Jackie Zheng, 307th Maintenance Company,75th Troop Command. The runner-up is Spc. Stephen Shelton, 198th Military Police Battalion, 149th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade (MEB). The Noncommissioned Officer (NCO) of 2024 is Sgt. Robert Buck, 130th Engineer Company, 149th MEB. The runner-up is Sgt. Jerry Marksbury 1-149th Infantry Regiment,75th Troop Command. All four Soldiers will continue to train and maintain their physical fitness to compete in the regional competition also taking place at WHFRTC in April 2024.

Both Buck and Zheng have competed in the state Best Warrior Competition (BWC) in previous years.

Buck, who is from Paducah, said for him the difference competing this year was completing the Sapper Leader Course at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, just two months before the competition. He also does CrossFit and competes in Norwegian road marches in his spare time.

“The Sapper course helped me a lot with working the weapons, radios, the engineer tasks, individual movements, and land navigation,” said Buck. “It made several BWC events feel like just another day in the office. Moving forward I’m going to up my game and continue working on my Soldier tasks and technical standards in preparation for April.”

Buck believes schools of interest like the Sapper Leaders Course and competing in events like BWC are good for retention and how the Guard can keep people in uniform.

“I have a couple of Soldiers who are currently overseas who are motivated to come home and go to the Sapper Leaders Course because of my experience. To me that is fulfilling,” said Buck. “If you ask me why I wear this uniform, it’s for the people. That’s what this is all about.”

Zheng, a mechanical engineer major at the University of Kentucky, said he prepared for BWC this year by recognizing he wasn’t naturally strong in endurance events so he would run every morning. He also said he relied heavily on the leadership of the NCOs who mentored him at his unit.

“My leadership especially the full-time staff at my unit and my sponsor Sgt. 1st Class Darren Kim made all the difference,” said Zheng. “Honestly if I didn’t have my sponsor’s guidance, I don’t think I would be sitting here.”

Earlier in the week, Kentucky State Command Sgt. Maj. Jesse Withers challenged all 21 competitors to strive toward excellence and compete not only against each other but against their own personal best while going through the events. He ended the awards portion of the breakfast telling them he could not have been prouder of the competitors, graders, and the supporting staff.

“You were all out here competing against each other, but it was about pushing yourselves to see what your endurance, training, and comradery can do. There are no winners or losers when you fight as one team. You are comrades in arms, professionals, and I’m so proud of each and every one.”

Kentucky will be hosting the Regional Best Warrior competition at WHFRTC in April. Zheng and Buck will compete against the Best Warriors from nine neighboring states in hopes of claiming the title of Best Warrior once again.

For more photos, please go to our Flickr page at: Best Warrior Competition Nov 1-5, 2023 | Flickr

News Search

Narrow Search