CAMP DODGE, Iowa, March 28, 2016 —
The 2016 Iowa Best Warrior Competition held at Camp Dodge in Johnston, Iowa, March 18-20 presented a unique opportunity for one soldier.
Army Spc. Ethan Estabrooks, a helicopter crew chief and mechanic with the Iowa Army National Guard’s Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion, 147th Aviation Regiment, navigated, engaged and maneuvered through the three-day event with the help of his sponsor -- a fellow guardsman who also happens to be his father.
“I wanted to be there for him for moral support and help him with anything he needed,” said Army 1st Sgt. Gary Estabrooks, the first sergeant of Alpha Company, 248th Aviation Support Battalion in Waterloo, Iowa. “To help guide him through the Best Warrior Competition and watching him compete was fun.”
The Best Warrior Competition consisted of several mentally and physically demanding events such as land navigation, an Army Physical Fitness Test and a 12-mile march with a loaded rucksack.
Ethan, a Slater, Iowa native and third-generation service member, said his interest in the military and his father’s service began early.
“As a child, I grew up throwing on some boots and this small uniform with ‘Estabrooks’ on it,” he said. “It has always interested me. One day, before graduating from high school, dad comes in the house and asks me how I’m going to pay for college. Two or three days later, he was able to convince me that the National Guard was the way to go.”
Gary, a former recruiter with the Iowa Army National Guard, felt his background helped his son to enlist.
“When it was time for Ethan to enlist, my background in recruiting was important to make sure he was getting what he wanted,” Gary said. “It was a way to get his college done and set him up for success.”
“Being pulled away from the family is never easy,” Gary said. “My wife and I never pushed the military on Ethan. I’m happy to see that he’s happy and being successful.”
Gary feels he’s passing the torch in their family’s military service.
“I really never envisioned that he would be in the National Guard,” he said. “I started out in aviation; he’s starting out in aviation. We had a lot of fun spending time together during this competition. It’s a neat way to hand it off and see what he can do with it.”
Ethan, one of eight junior-enlisted soldiers to finish the competition, said he had some ups and downs during the competition, but felt it was an overall success.
“I felt like I did pretty well until the ruck march,” Ethan said. “I enjoyed the land navigation event the most. I was able to find all the points and within a time I was happy with.”
Ethan is currently taking pre-engineering classes at Des Moines Area Community College before transferring to Iowa State University to earn his degree in aerospace engineering.