BURLINGTON, Vt. (WFFF) — Spc. Omar Dacosta of the Vermont Army National Guard won the Soldier category in the U.S. Army Central Best Warrior Competition last week. He’s moving on to the U.S. Army Forces Command Best Warrior Competition in Ft. Riley, Kansas, which will be held for the first time from Monday to Thursday.

Dacosta has been a part of the Vermont National Guard for three years. When he was a student at Norwich University, he quickly became inspired to join the Guard. Dacosta has been deployed since January 2021. In June, he found himself competing against six, active-duty soldiers in a prestigious competition.

“It really is like the Olympics, and he’s representing the state of Vermont in the Army Best Warrior ‘Olympics,'” said Vermont National Guards’ First Sgt. John Moore. He once participated in a difficult competition specific to the engineer corps. Unlike Dacosta, who’s competing individually, Moore could carry out tasks with his squad.

Such competitions are mentally and physically demanding and test more than soldiers’ strength. “We had a bunch of events like an obstacle course, an eight-mile road march, a mystery event where we had to 5K road march,” said Dacosta. “Drag 200-pound dummies, flip tires—all in a gas mask.”

He says judges are also testing soldiers’ intelligence with tests and written exams. “Knowledge of the army history. Knowledge of your job. Knowledge of survival techniques, your weapon systems,” said Moore.

For three days, Dacosta performed rigorous tasks with little rest in between. “It was kind of non-stop the entire time but that’s what makes it so competitive and that’s what makes it worth it to win and kudos to all the other competitors. It was not easy, that’s for sure,” he says. “It’s a great time. It’s a test of my mental strength, my discipline as a soldier, and also kind of testing myself and how I’m going to test myself.”  

If Spc. Dacosta wins the next level of competition at Ft. Riley, he will go on to compete against top army soldiers from around the country in September.