CAMP RIPLEY -- The best soldiers in the National Guard will be at Camp Ripley showing what they've got over the next week.

For the first time in the base's history, it's hosting the National Guard's Best Warrior Competition.

Sergeant First Class Todd Fox is one of the organizers for the event. He says it took a lot to get this together.

"We started planning this event around 12 months ago...talking with other states who've hosted it in the past and through 8-9 months of non-stop meetings and getting supplies together it turned into what we have now."

Sergeant First Class Jackson Jones is in charge of the "crew-served" weapons range and says the soldiers have some serious firepower to use.

"The new M2-A1 .50 caliber machine gun, the M240 Bravo and the Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW) are what we'll have on my range."

Staff Sergeant Daniel Sebo is Minnesota's competitor in this year's contest. He says he's most excited to get behind some weapons he normally doesn't see too often.

"As a medic I don't get hands-on with our crew served weapons all that often... so getting to work with some of the machine guns or the Mark 19 Grenade Launcher are things I don't get to do very often and it's good to maintain those skills."

Sebo says that he's got someone very special to thank.

"And I definitely have to say thank you to Kimberly, my fiance'...for putting up with me and my training getting ready for this, we've been really busy and she's been awesomely supportive through all this."

One junior enlisted - Private through Specialist - and one NCO or - Non Commissioned Officer - will win next week, and represent the National Guard at the All-Army Best Warrior Competition in October.

The actual competition starts on Monday, and runs through Thursday July 20.

The final event will be a road march around Lake Itasca.

The Army would like the public to know the soldiers will arrive by military helicopter and have weapons on them to provide a realistic training scenario. The weapons will be in-operable.

Photo: Richard Leguil, WJON
Photo: Richard Leguil, WJON
Photo: Richard Leguil, WJON